The Barbados Water Authority (BWA) is projected to save thousands of dollars, and become climate change resilient, through two renewable energy initiatives, funded to the tune of US$3.5 million dollars, under the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Caribbean Renewable Energy Fund.
One initiative will see a 500 kilowatt ground-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) system being constructed at a pumping station in the rural parish of St John, which serves 20,000 customers in rural Barbados.
Project Engineer at the BWA, Nathan Hart, expressed optimism that the BWA’s energy bill of BDS$ 1.8 million (US$900,000) per month will be further reduced with the installation of this system, as the Authority has already seen a dip in the energy bills of the buildings already outfitted with solar photovoltaic technology.
“This project will reduce energy consumption of the station by at least 20 per cent, and it will result in a yearly saving or reduction of operational cost by at least BDS$500,000 (US$250,000), while improving the efficiency of the operation to our customers,” he said.
A key feature of the upgrade will be a battery storage component, which Hart explained is aimed at keeping the station operational in the event of a hurricane or another situation which has caused a power outage.
“We will also incorporate in these projects a design for battery storage, thereby increasing further energy reduction by 40 per cent and, as mentioned, if the grid is down, we will still be able to pump water to our citizens,” he noted.
In addition, plans are on the cards for a charging facility for electronic vehicles. The 500 kilowatt solar carport is expected to charge a minimum of 12 vehicles.
“The energy harvested will be used to reduce the operational cost at the Bridgetown Sewage Treatment Plant by at least BDS$400,000 (US$200,000) to BDS$500,000 (US$250,000), and we want the ability to generate revenue via paid parking.”
The BWA official described the project as a “recipe for success”.
John Robert Caruso, Assistant Manager, Special Projects at Masdar, the Middle East’s largest exporter of renewable energy said Barbados’ renewable energy sector had great potential, noting it was a “foundation for general sustainable development”.
“This joint project with the Barbados Water Authority, with a mix of solar rays and electric vehicle chargers, is designed to directly free up expenditure on diesel for other purposes…It also supports [the] push in clean transportation with the electrical vehicle chargers.
“Barbados has strong business potential as it relates to renewable energy … its combination of high diesel costs and pioneering regulation position the market for rapid commercialization,” he added.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the BWA, Dr. Atlee Brathwaite, re-emphasized the need for the utility provider to become less dependent on fossil fuel to power its daily operations, while noting it was one of the island’s largest consumers of electricity.
In fact, he revealed the statutory corporation has suffered “negative cash flow” due to its high energy bill.
He also underscored the importance of grant funding as a means of ensuring the Authority had the capacity to build out existing solar PV projects; as well as work on new ones.