GEBE’s technical engineer, Paul Ideler, attended a two-day solar energy workshop in St. Vincent hosted by the local utility company, VINLEC. As part of GEBE’s vision to provide high quality electricity while taking the environment into account, GEBE is establishing a business development department that will among others investigate the possible implementation of renewable energies including solar, wind, geothermal on St. Maarten, Saba and Statia.
The core of the program was to highlight the importance for Caribbean energy companies to look at renewable energy sources to reduce their carbon footprint as well as to become less dependent on fossil fuels with its volatile price changes. Types of renewable energy such as solar, wind, and geothermal were presented along with their respective advantages and disadvantages on small Caribbean islands.
Although currently solar power generation is expensive compared to other sources, advantages in technology as well as an increase in economies of scale are bringing down the cost to produce electricity from sunlight. Plus new solar technologies such as thin film and spray on solar power cells increase the possibilities of incorporating solar power into building structures.
The specific objective of the workshop was to provide an in depth understanding of PV (photo voltaic) technology requirements for grid connection, installation and operation. Solar energy basics as well as theory and PV systems were covered. More in depth topics and technical information such as materials, performance curves, optimal conditions as well as inverters and PV systems that connect to the electricity grid were also discussed.
Solar power and Caribbean utility companies was an important topic discussed in the workshop. Updates were also given on several Caribbean islands that have already implemented solar power such as Grenada who is currently offering net metering. Information was given on the Grenada long term renewable energy goals, renewable energy policy as well as the Grenada net metering philosophy.
Ideler indicated that incorporating solar energy into Caribbean utility companies was a very interesting component of the workshop. "The workshop touched on requirements, standards, codes, etc., for tying in solar power to the electricity grid as well as the steps that the customer has to take to apply and qualify for a grid-tied solar system such as an impact study. The workshop was very valuable for benchmarking the developments in solar energy in the Caribbean and for investigating the feasibility for implementing net-metering or grid-tied solar energy systems for NV GEBE."
The solar energy workshop was organized by the Caribbean Utility Association (CARILEC) and funded by the United Nations Development Program in Barbados with lecturer Dr. Indra Harasingh of the Department of Physics of the University of the West Indies in Trinidad.