Costly switch

Change to solar power will be more expensive

If Barbadians want reliable solar power across the island they must be prepared to first pay more for electricity, according to Central Bank Governor Dr Delisle Worrell.

Delivering what he described as “a layman’s observations” to a Barbados Renewable Energy Association seminar last evening, Worrell spoke of a future with a solar power generating system for the entire island that could halve the $1 billion annual fuel import bill.

He said obtaining a suitable grid for safe and efficient distribution of solar energy across the island was the biggest obstacle to his vision of a green Barbados.

And he warned that because the present electricity distribution infrastructure has to change to suit the requirements for solar energy transmission, the path to cheaper and greener energy consumption would be costly and Barbadians must be prepared to foot the bill in the initial stages.

Some of the attendees at the BREA seminar at the Grand Salle of the Central Bank.
Some of the attendees at the BREA seminar at the Grand Salle of the Central Bank.

“The grid that would be required for solar generation across the country would need to be a low-powered one across the entire system and would have to have a smart computer brain to help it manage daily fluctuations in generation,” he said.

“The design testing and implementation of such a grid would be a very major undertaking and it would have to be planned and implemented over several years. Finance would have to be secured and the cost of servicing funds raised to remake the distribution grid would require an increase in electricity supply cost in the near term.

“In order to realize our real potential for green energy, it seems to me that Barbados must make strategic decisions with respect to the cost of reengineering the grid.”

Elaborating on this concept “that could be the future of energy in Barbados”, Worrell spoke of a system generating electricity by solar power for the most part and having only a small off-peak traditional power generation plant, with surplus solar power being stored during hours of sunshine for use in darkness.

He acknowledged that Barbadians have been for years converting energy from the sun for water heating, but said there was much more potential.

“That is trifling compared to the potential for near self-sufficiency . . . ,” Worrell said.

“Fuel imports are in the range of $1 billion every year, or about one-third of everything we import. Converting fully to solar generation would probably cut that bill in half, or even lower.

“An island-wide solar powered grid would create a sufficient demand for energy products and services to be the foundation of industry with potential for hundreds of jobs,” he added.

9 Responses to Costly switch

  1. Santini More
    Santini More November 12, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Am I to understand that it would cost a ONE OFF $1 billion to upgrade our electricity distribution network to accommodate solar electricity BUT EVERY YEAR we import $1 billion in oil?

  2. Shaka Philosopha Miller
    Shaka Philosopha Miller November 12, 2014 at 11:13 am

    It may cost even more to do it than the 1 billion though. And much planning, much more planning than u can imagine needs to put in place. The man power and cost of conversation to name a few. This should have been done many years ago. But it seems many of our leaders lack vision. With an island this small with little to no natural resources. We should have been down this alley ages ago. We probably would be half way by now or further with this. When we actually had money…

  3. Tony Webster November 12, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    I hate to be a party-pooper, particularly asI am a firm supporter of green energy in principle. But as we place more and more of our “energy eggs” in a basket c attached to our roof by a few screws, I ask the obvious: on that fateful day when this blessed rock is vitied by a cat. 4 or 5 hurricane, one shudders to think of the increased risk, nationally, as our power sources are totally exposed to the elemental furies. The status quo, would be arguably less vulnerable, facing us with only the necessity of rlacing downed power lines and grid wires.
    I therefore point to the underlying need, for both our roofs, and our PV panels, to be structurally secured to the buildings in an approved engineering standard ( that drat Buiding Code, again), in such a way as to mitigate the obvious risks.

  4. jr smith November 12, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    Solar power, so many people around the world , believes ,if the sun shines we have power, and without sunshine, no power. There are 2 types of panels. The problem is storing the solar energy as for secondary use.
    I think, this renewable energy farce is just talk, talk to may it easy for certain large corporates , to bid and win contracts. In certain people interest.
    Not one of the G7 group or others ,can show us the data as to test carried,out as to which type of renewable can be deployed as most efficient and economical.
    For Barbados, we need a resilient back ground to start from, before we start spending the money we have not.
    Barbados needs a triangular infrastructure of small generating plants, which would then be much simpler, to add any secondary systems of power sources.

    We don’t need a billion dollars to deploy our own power structure in bim.

  5. Chris Corbin
    Chris Corbin November 12, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    I’m lost, you have to upgrade the entire grid to support less power? All controlled by a smart computer brain? Why reinvent the wheel and try to bolt an artificial intelligence to it. If the grid doesn’t support solar generation (more policy than technical) then use batteries to store and use. I’d ask for a second opinion if he was the engineer.

  6. Brimstone November 12, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    This is interesting. I wonder when Worrell moved from economist to engineer??? I remember many years ago BL&P used low speed generators with fuel oil, and shifted to high speed diesel turbines at Sping Garden. The massive cost was transferred to the consumer and Worrell never updated the public.
    Solar energy is a very viable option and has been researched by mainly Germany, Spain, China and the USA. There is an annual meeting I believe in California with many nations participating, there are also many data sources available online which includes the cost of six facilities being built by the USA in the mid-west region.
    I am also amazed that the Fair Trading Commission has allowed the BL&P to cheat Bajans with the theory of persons selling back to the grid. The agreement is that the consumer who generates 10 widgets and consumes three must in essence pay BL&P for the three used at their rate of 10+cents and they will buy your seven at 7 cents. This is madness see below
    10 supplied …. less 3 used = 7 @ 10 = 70 fair value
    10 supplied …..used 3@ 10 =30 …refund 40
    It is amazing how our leaders sell out our citizens.
    Please research and you will see that a solar plant for total Barbados is in the region of $300M. A similar project was recently installed in Puerto Rico and Jamaica had a quotation for US$325M.
    This system also have the safety valve of being a solar farm totally away from residential homes, maybe at North Point Plantation between the lighthouse and the old naval facility, which is hard rock. You may also note that the maintenance factor is 25 years trouble free as per German engineering specs.
    The main hiccup here is ELMERA the parent company of BL&P who has a monopoly in Barbados until 2025. They also recently moved into St. Lucia and Dominica to gain a strangle hold similar to Cable & Wireless, and the Canadian banking structure like Scotia, RBC and CIBC.
    We need to liberalize Barbados and open our markets to encourage free trade competition, it is the only way forward. For example, Cable & Wireless knows that Britain outsourced over 77 billion pounds a few years ago and most went to the Euroasian corridor, yet they saddle Barbados with massive voice & data transmission fees. I am also annoyed over the G7 and G20 policies as outlined by the Australian PM recently, but I wont bore you folks with it.
    God help BARBADOS…….. My blessed people and country

  7. jr smith November 13, 2014 at 4:54 am

    Keep the debate going, people. lets see who ,are the real players.

  8. RoughStuff November 13, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Prof Olav Hohmeyer presented a pumped storage solution for Barbados that will allow the country to go 100% RE with an average electricity cost at the end of BDS.25 cents per kw. He also said this strategy will actually increase revenue for the government in addition to saving BDS300 million annually. Pumped storage is by far the cheapest and most technically proved storage technology in the world at an installed cost of BDS. 03 per kw/h of capacity.

    His full presentation will be made available for public scrutiny and examination.

  9. Lisle November 13, 2014 at 9:31 am

    To switch to solar there is a cost. The cost of the solar equipment and maintaining it is still very high but in the long run it will pay for itself. Imagine buying millions of dollars in solar equipment first, you still have to buy oil to operate until the systems are on island and installed and tested. So the true cost may very well be even higher than the 1 billion. Solar energy cost will get cheaper very soon as China is rolling out a massive plan to reduce green house gases and have put policies in place to increase the production od solar panel and equipment, so the world should see a reduction in cost as the supply increases. Storage of enegy is another high cost, if we are going to store energy why cant we store it now, as energy is lost in the grid everyday, we should be storing energy but that cost to is very high. bye


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