MONDAY MAN: Maynard always powered up
IN 15 YEARS, Orville Maynard has not had a power outage.
Even when Barbados was in darkness as recently as last month, he was enjoying the comfort of having access to power in his home. That’s because for almost two decades, his electrical power source has been independent of Barbados Light & Power’s grid.
Maynard is a man of many talents. He is highly skilled in many scientific and engineering fields and in other locations, people might refer to him as a genius. But in Barbados he is simply known as a man with a “love for understanding how things work”, he quipped during his interview with the DAILY NATION.
It’s hard to box the areas in which Maynard is qualified, but his current interest rests mostly in the field of solar power and alternative energy. This is the reason why he has not had to pay an electricity bill in well over ten years.
His entire Westmoreland, St James property runs off a generator powered by solar energy. Initially, it was powered by cooking oil.
“My house was always a big experiment,” he joked.
Maynard’s interest in renewable energy solutions was sparked while a student of Ellerslie Secondary School in the late 1970s. He explained that at that time, Ellerslie had a very vibrant science and innovation programme. However, Maynard made it clear that even before that, it was his parents’ ingenuity which charted his course.
Speaking between breaks of installing a solar system on the fishing vessel Tabs Unity at the Shallow Draught in Bridgetown, he described his parents as “can do” people. His father, Arnold Springer, was a handyman who worked at Apes Hill Plantation while his mother, Sylvia “Doll Dinks” Maynard, was an entrepreneur.
“More or less [dad] did everything around the neighbourhood; he was the plumber, electrician, carpenter. I learned a lot from my father in terms of getting involved in so many technical things at the same time. From my mother’s side was the business because she was more or less an entrepreneur.
“My mother had cows and pigs, sold agricultural produce, had minibuses when they didn’t even have a name. I think my mother was the first woman in Barbados to hold a truck licence. My mother was industrious and she invested in all kinds of stuff,” he said.
It was through their industry that Maynard was able to interact with a variety of people who frequented their home in the tiny St James village of Baywoods. So by the time he reached 15 in 1980 and was winning top honours in an assortment of science exhibitions representing his school during the day, young Maynard would be earning extra dollars by night fixing radios and televisions sets for those in the community who knew of his talents.
“I represented my school four or five times in Queen’s Park. I did a presentation with wind, solar, a very basic computer system back then which was a card reader and I won first and second prizes.”
When he graduated from Ellerslie, Maynard was unable to attend university because his parents did not have the finances, but with an obvious talent, it led him to an internship at the National Petroleum Corporation’s service shop. All the while he continued his electronic services trade that he called Vetracom. Even after the internship, he carried on with Vetracom until 1998, when he decided that self-employment was best for him. And two years later, he began to focus strictly as a self-employed electronics and marine engineer and a provider of alternate energy products through Amp Sales.
Presently the majority of Amp Sales’ business is solar power, specialising in fishing boats, yachts and some ships. Maynard does a lot of servicing and maintaining communications and navigation equipment.
The father of two young daughters said that in the past few years he had seen a noticeable decline in alternative energy solutions for domestic consumption, mainly because of lower oil prices, but the interest shown by owners of fishing vessels in solar electricity was consistently growing.
While domestic households might see returns on their investment in five to seven years, owners of fishing vessels could see theirs within a year or two, he explained.
“For the year I have installed solar power for one domestic [and] I’ve done 35 boats. Solar is also being used as a money-saving instrument for long line ice boats for which savings in fuel can amount to $200 on a seven-day trip. The owners and fishermen are loving this. With solar, most of the savings come from fuel. What fishermen normally do is turn the engines on and run them in the day so that when they go to sleep, the battery is charged up so they can have power during the night until the next day. With solar, because the batteries are charged during the day, it means they no longer have to run [the engine], therefore they save.”
He added that since fishing vessels were at sea for usually long periods, having enough power on the boat was very critical.
Solar power can therefore help to maintain safety in cases of emergency and being able to communicate, while it guards against pollution and assisted with safety and the longevity of the equipment such as the engine and battery.
Maynard said he would like to see more interest being paid to alternative energy solutions, but he believed it was only a matter of time before Barbadians were incentivised. (SDB Media)