By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamas has been urged to invest $229m over the next five years in “an ambitious and fast track programme” to achieve the National Energy Policy’s “30 percent by 2030” renewable target.
Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) consultants, in a report seen by Tribune Business, call for this nation to “pursue” the installation of 119.08 megawatts (MW) in solar energy, together with 10.96 MW of four-hour battery storage, between 2019 and 2023 if it is to get back on course with its renewable energy commitments.
WSP, in a report produced in August 2019, said its five-year Renewable Energy Plan for New Providence and the Family Islands would ensure renewable energy sources accounted for 11 percent of The Bahamas’ total generation mix by 2023 - a level that would place the country “in line” to reach its 30 percent goal by 2030.
Besides calling for the installation of 28.7MW in solar rooftop photovoltaic systems in New Providence by 2023, the WSP report’s executive summary also calls for a 30 MW “floating” solar system to be installed on Lake Killarney together with a 15 MW “ground mounted” operation at the Tonique Williams Highway landfill.
It estimated that the solar roll-out would produce around $58m in “avoided” electricity generation costs Bahamas-wide over the next five years if targets were hit, and its recommendations followed, in a bid to increase the “less than one percent” share of the energy mix currently enjoyed by renewables.
“Over the next five years The Bahamas should plan and pursue 119.08 MW of solar PV in New Providence (73.7 MW) and the Family Islands (45.38 MW), supplemented with 10.96 MW of four-hour battery energy storage,” the WSP report said.
“It should be noted that these figures represent the total amount of solar PV that should be installed, including ones that that will be procured through the SSRG (Small Scale Residential Generation programme, as well as through BPL and IPP (independent power producer) investment.
“The associated capital costs are $203.7m for solar PV and $25.3m for the battery storage. These investments result in an annual savings of $3.7m for BPL comparing to the BAU (business as usual) case.”
WSP projected that, at full build-out, the 73.7 MW of New Providence solar PV capacity would generate 42.7 Gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity per year. Supplementing this, it added: “Installation of 30 MW of floating solar PV on Lake Killarney with annual production of 54.1GWh is envisaged in 2023. Further development of floating PV projects will be realised until 2030.
“A potential 15 MW landfill solar PV facility is assumed to be in operation in 2022. Installation of the first ground-mounted solar PV on the Family Islands is planned for the beginning of 2021 year.”
The report added that no battery storage, which retains excess renewable energy for use when there is heavy cloud cover or at night, was required in New Providence because the proposed Shell power plant’s use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) would provide “sufficient spinning reserves”.
“On the other hand, investment in battery storage can be justified in the Family Islands,” WSP said, “as PV penetration levels will reach 10-15 percent in 2023. When the level of solar PV penetration reaches 10 percent of total annual demand (in 2023), shortages of spinning reserves as well as solar PV curtailments occur.
“Therefore, battery storage facilities with a four-hour rating have been proposed to support normal system operation, provide spinning reserves, and avoid solar PV curtailment. The battery would be charged during daylight with excess PV generation and discharged during night hours, and would therefore serve for regulation and load shaving. This battery storage will also support further integration of solar PV in the following years up to 2030.”
The WSP report, when added to the proposed $170m renewable energy financing/development vehicle that the Government proposes to create in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), indicates that the Minnis administration has suddenly started to get serious about renewable energy by drawing on projects already in the works before Hurricane Dorian.
The BPL consultants, meanwhile, said “larger quantities of solar PV facilities” will have to be installed on New Providence and the Family Islands between 2024 and 2030 if The Bahamas is to meet its renewable energy targets.
Their report also refers to a 7 MW waste-to-energy plant coming online at the New Providence landfill in 2023, and suggests that the potential $130-$160 per mega watt hour price for selling renewable energy to BPL is “attractive for this type of power plant in the Caribbean region”.
“According to the National Energy Plan, the target is to achieve 30 percent of electricity generation from renewable sources of the total generation portfolio. Given that the current renewable share is less than 1 percent of the overall generation, an ambitious and fast track programme is required to achieve this target,” WSP said.
“While renewable energy and energy efficiency are complementary alternatives to conventional generation, transitioning to them needs to be done in a thoughtful and iterative process that ensures that the core needs of the system – including stability, reliability and financial viability, are met.
“The electrical system underpins the economic foundation of The Bahamas, so it is essential that it continue to operate as well as or better than the current operating system standard during and after the introduction of renewables if the uptake of renewable energy and energy efficiency is to be fully realised.”