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VINLEC heading towards renewable energy


Customers should begin to see the benefits of renewable energy explorations by VINLEC in about five years or less time. That’s according to officials from the St Vincent Electricity Services Limited (VINLEC).{{more}}

SEARCHLIGHT spoke to Dr Vaughn Lewis, Manager of Engineering, and Fidel Neverson, the Engineer responsible for Generation Planning, who reiterated the company’s commitment to increasing its renewable energy capacity.

During a just concluded seminar, hosted by the local Chamber of Commerce, along with its Cuban Counterpart, a presentation on advancements in the harnessing of renewable energy in Cuba was made by Leida Santamarina, of the Cuban Electrical company.

She touted the success that has come in their research and development in photovoltaic energy (technology that converts light directly into electricity). She highlighted Cuban use of hybrid systems (wind and photovoltaic) in various parts of the country, and the continued move towards an electrical system that is less dependent on oil.

This, Dr Lewis said, is VINLEC’s ambition also, as he sought to correct any misconception that VINLEC may enjoy the higher priced, diesel generated electricity – because it is good for the company’s bottom-line.

Dr Lewis said that while it may be some time before photovoltaic technology is explored, the potential of wind and hydro electricity is being pursued with diligence.

“We have examined, we have driven up and down the country and looked at sights from Fancy to Chateaubelair, and when we started this exercise, sites that we thought were obvious for the generation of electricity by wind…even though there are a lot of windy areas, we don’t have as many sites that we are able to use (to set up wind parks),” Dr Lewis said.

“Right now we are doing wind studies at three sites in St Vincent. We are looking at Brighton, and we are looking at the Ribishi Point,” Neverson said.

“In the feasibility studies we have been doing there so far, we have found that both of them (the sites) have very favourable wind regimes,” Neverson added.

Studies are also being conducted in the Belle Isle area, on the hill just above the new prison.

As regards photovoltaic energy, Dr Lewis explained that the technology is still quite new, and more time is needed for it to be researched.

However, VINLEC sees lots of potential in hydro power, the engineers explained, as hydro power accounted for 19 per cent of St Vincent’s electricity generation last year.

St Vincent has three hydro plants, with the two which are located at South Rivers and Richmond being close to 60 and 50 years old, respectively. The Cumberland plant was built in the 1980s.

“We are working with the Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Programme to upgrade the older hydro stations,” Dr Lewis said, adding that once this is done, more capacity from these plants is assured.

He said that a water resource management study is also being conducted, to examine the feasibility of having more hydro stations.

“With hydro power, you really do need to have years of data behind you, more so than wind and solar, to do a proper feasibility study of what you can get from each site,” Dr Lewis said.

Dr Lewis told SEARCHLIGHT that it may not be feasible for the renewable energy projects to be managed by VINLEC alone, so the company may involve a private investor.

He further stated that Vinlec will encourage any customer, including developers, who may want to explore alternative energy sources, and is willing to work with them to this end.

“People think we want our demand to skyrocket, but that is not so. It is not good business for it (the demand) to increase too quickly,’ Lewis said.