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Bacardi Owner In Multi-Million Solar Investment

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The former Bacardi plant’s principal is aiming to ultimately invest $5-$6 million in installing solar panels on the property’s eight acres of roof space, with long-term plans involving the supply of power to surrounding subdivisions.

Tennyson Wells told Tribune Business he aimed to invest $800,000 this year in installing solar panels that will supply all his tenants at the former rum manufacturing facility.

Mr Wells, the principal in the property’s owner, the Source River group, said he aimed to install between 2.5-3.5 Mega Watts (MW) of solar capacity, with the goal of reducing tenants’ power costs by up to 38 per cent.

Explaining that he planned to create a separate company to handle this, Mr Wells said: “We have eight acres of roof space. We intend to put solar panels on that.

“With people coming in to rent space, we will be able to offer them $0.25-$0.30 per kilowatt hour, compared to BEC’s $0.40-$0.41 per hour.”

The former Attorney General and Cabinet Minister told Tribune Business he planned to ultimately tie the solar project into the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) grid and sell excess power back to the monopoly power provider.

And he added that the solar project would eventually be able to power nearby residential subdivisions, such as Venice Bay and his own South Seas.

“We will add gradually to the tenants on-site,” Mr Wells said. “The whole project, by the time we’re finished at 3MW, will be up to $5-$6 million.

“An $800,000 investment will cover the tenants we have on-site now, what they’re using. That’s my goal this year.”

To kickstart his plans, Mr Wells said he last week met with Barbados-based solar panel installers, and has also had conversations with a Rose Island resident who has already done the same thing.

His plans for a BEC grid tie-in, though, may have to wait a little longer, as this will be dependent on the pace and extent of Bahamian energy sector reform.

The Government has postponed taking decisions on whether to approve any renewable energy projects until this year, prioritising the BEC reform process. And initiatives of the type proposed by Mr Wells will also be reliant on the nature of energy sector legislative and regulatory reform.

The ex-MP, meanwhile, told Tribune Business that Source River planned to launch in-house financing to drive development of a planned 65-lot waterfront subdivision at the back of the former Bacardi plant.

“I believe we will offer to the public in-house financing for 65 lots on the seaside at the back of the Bacardi plant,” Mr Wells said.

“We have the entrance through South Seas, and will bring that online by the end of March.

“We are in a position where the complex at Bacardi is a long-term thing,” he added. “We’re not looking to sell it out in three years and be gone after 10 years.

“Financing like the bank, that’s what we intend to do with that to move forward.” Mr Wells suggested waterfront lots would be priced around $250,000, with those inland set at around $80,000-$85,000.

He told Tribune Business he anticipated that leasing space at the former Bacardi property “will go better this year”, with around 25 per cent of the total space already rented out.

“We’re getting some leases, people taking some of the space there,” Mr Wells added.

Among his latest tenants is the Bahamas Cigarette and Tobacco Company (BC&T), the manufacturing company established by John Wilson, the McKinney, Bancroft & Hughes partner, and his business partner, Lionel Harris.

“They’re now in the final stages of completing the electricity and dealing with BEC, and should start manufacturing this month or in February,” Mr Wells added.

“They’ve invested quite a bit of money in enhancing the space and putting equipment in, fitting out the offices. They’ve done an excellent job.”

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