Caribbean Keep­ing up with World­wide Re­new­able En­ergy Trends

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

The drive to power the world with clean en­ergy has led com­pa­nies like Vergnet to the Caribbean, where it has been op­er­at­ing since 1993. Since that time the global re­new­able so­lu­tions provider has es­tab­lished re­new­able en­ergy projects through­out the re­gion. This year the com­pany, rep­re­sented by Vergnet GB Sales Man­ager Chris Gavin, par­tic­i­pated in Car­ilec’s Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cers and Fi­nance Con­fer­ence. Ahead of the event Gavin shared with the the com­pany’s thoughts on the di­rec­tion of the re­new­able en­ergy in­dus­try in the Caribbean.

What is the pur­pose of the con­fer­ence, and why was it im­por­tant for Vergnet to at­tend this year? Chris:

These con­fer­ences are once a year, and Car­ilec them­selves hold sev­eral con­fer­ences through­out the year; it just so hap­pened that this one was in Saint Lu­cia. The con­fer­ence was at­tended by all the CEOs of the util­ity com­pa­nies, so it’s the top peo­ple in the com­pa­nies, and it just gives us a chance to get a feel for what the re­new­able en­ergy strate­gies are go­ing to be like for the next year, to es­tab­lish what their re­new­able goals are, and de­ter­mine how we can help them achieve those goals.

Where is the hub of Vergnet in the Caribbean? Chris:

Guade­loupe. Our very first project in the Caribbean was in Guade­loupe back in 1993. It was wind tur­bines, and since then through­out the Caribbean we’ve in­stalled over the last 24 years, about 262 wind tur­bines. Guade­loupe is our cen­tral base for mak­ing sure that the tur­bines, no mat­ter where they are in the Caribbean, op­er­ate ef­fi­ciently, and to the best of their abil­ity.

What are some of the hot topics in the en­ergy sec­tor? Chris:

Stor­age of en­ergy. A lot of the grids in the Caribbean is­lands are not at this mo­ment fully geared up to take the amount of re­new­able en­ergy they can use. Ob­vi­ously the Caribbean is sat­u­rated with the sun, and it has a bit of the trade winds, so the grids may not nec­es­sar­ily be sta­bi­lized enough to take all the en­ergy that is avail­able. That’s a key point we’ll look at for the next few years. A stor­age solution al­lows en­ergy from the sun to be stored and used at night when there is no sun, but not many of the ones in the Caribbean have that stor­age ca­pa­bil­ity. It’s not an is­sue, but an op­por­tu­nity to take ad­van­tage of that en­ergy.

What are some things to keep in mind with these types of in­stal­la­tions? Chris:

Coun­tries like the Cay­mans, Ja­maica - Ja­maica in par­tic­u­lar - have large scale wind farms that power a good part of the is­land. But you have to have land and the con­di­tions to do things like that. Saint Lu­cia is a more moun­tain­ous coun­try, so you’ve got to find the right spots to do projects like that; you can’t nec­es­sar­ily just in­stall so­lar ev­ery­where. You’ve got a huge amount of foresta­tion on this is­land, so there­fore there’s not a huge amount of land avail­able.

How much land is needed? Chris:

It varies. It de­pends on what you’re try­ing to achieve with it, and a lot of the is­lands it may just be there’s an area that doesn’t have ac­cess to the grid, or has ac­cess to a smaller grid than the rest of the is­land. If you take An­tigua and Bar­buda for ex­am­ple, Bar­buda is ob­vi­ously an is­land off the coast, it doesn’t have the power ca­pa­bil­i­ties, the grid in­fra­struc­ture there, so what they’ll do is they’ll build a sys­tem which may take about an acre or two of land, and where I come from - the UK - an acre is noth­ing, be­cause there’s so much land avail­able. In the Caribbean an acre can be used for a lot of things so it’s just find­ing the right spot to put the right in­fra­struc­ture in place to al­low us to do things like that.

What kind of ser­vices does Vergnet pro­vide? Chris:

We pro­vide wind tur­bines, so­lar, stor­age, but we can also hy­bridize an en­tire grid sys­tem, which al­lows ev­ery­thing to seam­lessly fit in to op­ti­mize the amount of re­new­able en­ergy that is used on the grid, hence re­duc­ing the amount of fossil fuel used. Ob­vi­ously the price of fossil fuel fluc­tu­ates, you can never re­ally pre­dict what your costs are go­ing to be, and that’s borne by the con­sumers, by the cus­tomers of the util­i­ties. The hy­bridiza­tion that we have, Hy­brid Wizard, al­lows a much bet­ter return, and a much bet­ter pen­e­tra­tion of the re­new­able en­ergy, which al­lows the util­ity to use less oil, which al­lows them to re­duce their de­pen­dence on it and, hence, a much more pre­dictable cost can be es­tab­lished for elec­tric­ity.

The other thing that we do that no­body does, our tur­bines that we use are hur­ri­cane re­sis­tant up to cat­e­gory five hur­ri­canes. We’ve worked in the Caribbean for so long, and so we de­vel­oped that specif­i­cally for the Caribbean re­gion; it al­lows more dis­as­ter re­sis­tance, which means you can lower the tur­bine and as soon as the hur­ri­canes pass you can put the tur­bine back up. It just means that you can be back up and run­ning a lot sooner. It’s par­tic­u­larly use­ful tech­nol­ogy for the Caribbean, and South Pa­cific!

Vergnet GB Sales Man­ager Chris Gavin.

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