By Neil Hartnell
Tribune Business Editor
Grand Bahama Power Company’s $5m solar plant will be able to supply 850 homes and reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 4,200 tons annually, it has been revealed.
The utility-scale project, which drew Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis to its Friday groundbreaking, represents a direct $2m investment into the Bahamian economy. It will sit on 15 acres of land and feature 11,500 photovoltaic panels.
Dr Minnis said GB Power’s plant represented “a relatively small, but important step in the right direction for Grand Bahama and The Bahamas” as the Government targets generating 30 percent of the country’s needs from renewable sources by 2030.
The Bahamas gave an international commitment to meet that threshold as a party to the 2015 United Nations Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and Dr Minnis said: “Solar Sunrise is the first utility-scale solar plant in the country. It will have a total installed capacity of 3.3 megawatts, capable of supplying enough electricity to support over 850 homes on Grand Bahama. The project represents an over $2m direct investment in the local economy. It is a physical hedge against volatile oil prices. This is very good news, given the ongoing fluctuation in global oil prices and the resulting rate volatility.”
Dr Minnis added that GB Power plans to invest more than $18m in renewable energy and smart technology over the next three years to improve reliability and lower energy costs.
“I have been informed that the company has also already completed studies that show that almost 60MW of renewable energy sources – a mix of distributed and centralised – may be safely incorporated into GBPC’s grid,” Dr Minnis said. “This would account for 30 percent of current energy production in Grand Bahama.”
The Prime Minister added that his administration was making strides in energy sector reform and the greater use of renewable energy. He said a 390KW solar micro-grid should be installed in Ragged Island by the end of the year .
Dr Minnis said the government has introduced additional tax incentives for solar equipment, and plans to retrofit public schools and buildings on New Providence.
“We hope to complete energy audits for an additional eight government buildings in the next few months, including the Cecil Wallace Whitfield Centre in New Providence, which houses the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Finance,” the Prime Minister said.
“We want to refine the scope of works in order to begin tendering procedures for retrofitting and installing a combined 1MW of solar PV at these buildings by 2020. The approximately 1MW solar car park canopy at the National Stadium should become operational at the end of March.”
The Prime Minister said he has pressed Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) on the urgency to further develop, and begin implementing its strategy, for renewable energy utility generation in the Family Islands.
He added that there are about 80 customers with solar PV systems tied to BPL’s grid, mostly on New Providence, but also on Eleuthera and Exuma, representing around two MW in installed renewable energy capacity.
“However, we know that there are systems in the country that are not yet registered,” Dr Minnis said. “BPL has committed to conducting the necessary public awareness campaigns and registration drives to enable us to have better data on residential and commercial solar PV and other renewable energy systems. I encourage GBPC to do the same.”
Achieving the 30 percent reneawable target, he said, will depend on all Bahamians.
“Although alternative and renewable energy technologies are becoming cost-competitive and better understood globally and in The Bahamas, we still have a very long way to go as a country,” Dr Minnis said.