Big bucks

Andre Gibson of Stuctural Systems with Williams Industries Director David Staples at their project at Cane Garden.

by Shawn Cumberbatch

In an unusual move, a Barbadian company harnessing the sun’s energy to produce electricity has turned to an American bank for millions of dollars in financial support.

But having secured the $12.8 million it needed to install 1.4 megawatts of solar capacity over the last six months, management of Williams everGreen Limited says the company is being starved of revenue because of delayed installation of critical equipment.

Outspoken Chairman of the Williams Industries Inc. group, Ralph Bizzy Williams, this evening confirmed reports out of the United States that his company’s alternative energy subsidiary borrowed US$6.4 million from PNC Bank, an arrangement guaranteed by another American financier, Ex-Im Bank.

Williams was disappointed, however, that because Williams everGreen was waiting for Barbados Light & Power Company Limited to install eight meters at its St. Thomas facility, earning money to repay the funds borrowed from the Americans was problematic.

“They guaranteed the finance for another bank to lend us the money. The banks here will not lend you money at that interest rate so that’s the reason we had to go the way we went,” he told Barbados TODAY.

Williams said while the decision to seek finance overseas might have surprised many in Barbados, such creative solutions were not unusual to his company.

“You can’t be a frontrunner and run with the pack too, so you have to look for ways to reduce your costs as much as possible so that’s what we try to do. And if there is an opportunity to do it we try and seize the opportunity and try and see if it can be done,” he stated.

“It takes a lot of effort to get it done, but when it’s done it’s done and there are not a lot of companies that would be able to do that in Barbados because they just don’t have the financial resources that we would have had to back the whole thing.”

While happy with this outcome, the entrepreneur was displeased that important meters had not been installed. “It helped us a lot, but we haven’t been able to get the revenue stream coming in the way we had hoped up to now because up to now we have not been able to get the Barbados Light & Power to install all the meters so we are virtually giving away electricity right now to the Light & Power,” he said.

“They have promised that they will install the meters as soon as this week. There are about eight meters to be installed now, I think we have two installed already.” The official said this equipment was a “very critical” part of the company’s operations.

“In order to earn the revenue to pay back the United States banks we have to get these meters installed. So Mr. BL&P is talking sweet and promising and I hope they will come through, but while the grass is growing the horse is starving,” he asserted.

“We have a lot of faith so it will happen; it will take time like everything else in Barbados is taking too long. This is just another thing that takes too long, but we will try our best and keep trying.”

Ex-Im Bank provided the US$6.4 million loan guarantee to finance the export of solar modules from West Coast-based SolarWorld Americas to the Williams Industries company.

“Ex-Im export financing for this deal supports several American businesses and helps support jobs in five states, including California, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, and Washington. Our financing is good for American jobs, boosts American manufacturing and supplies clean, renewable energy to Barbados,” Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg said in a statement.

SolarWorld’s Vice President, Sales and Business Development added: “With its sun-drenched tropical setting and reliance on imported oil for energy generation, the Caribbean is an ideal location for solar.”

“In Williams Industries, we found a perfect partner for island solar development. By combining SolarWorld’s high-quality solar equipment with Williams’ knowledge of the Caribbean electrical sector, we can provide significant oil savings to the island and lower payments for Williams.

With Ex-Im Bank financing, this project makes good economic and environmental sense.”

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