Posted on

Examine alternative energy sources


Editor: In the past when I made contributions in the print media under a pseudonym, I defended my position because in this society more attention is paid to the messenger instead of the MESSAGE.

During this short open letter, I would like to address a few current issues, hoping that the message will ‘take root’.

Electricity: SVG is an under-developed small multi-island state with a steady and increasing demand for electricity. In a letter to the press a few years ago, I noted that the cost of electricity would spiral upwards as fuel prices rise and that we need to seriously address the area of alternative sources of energy other than the hydro and diesel generating capability that we now possess.{{more}}

The more diesel generators Vinlec purchases, the more foreign exchange goes out of the country to fuel and maintain these engines and it is the consumer who ultimately has to foot that bill. Vinlec engineers will tell you that a hydro plant is much easier to maintain than their diesel counterparts, which are noisy, pollute the atmosphere and are costly to operate and maintain. Mind you, diesel generators, once properly serviced/maintained, deliver a reliable service.

What other renewable energy sources are available in SVG ? Solar, wind and geothermal (maybe?). Wind studies done on Mayreau, Canouan and possibly other locations all point favourably towards this free, non-polluting, renewable natural resource. Solar energy is a good alternative but in our situation, it would be better suited to small applications which I will deal with shortly. Geothermal, well I don’t know what research has been done here, but there seems to be some potential in this area. St. Lucia has tapped into that natural resource so we can learn from their experience.

Greater demand

How do we proceed from here? The greater the demand for electricity the greater the demand on Vinlec to deliver a ‘reliable’ service, which includes increasing the generation capacity and concomitant demand for fuel. We have already heeded the call to conserve energy, but our bills are still getting higher as the cost of fuel rises. So how can we address and arrest this situation?

Lights do not consume a lot of electricity, but use over time adds up significantly. If a house owner uses a solar panel and a small wind turbine to recharge a 12 volt battery, they can run all their lights using that system and even a small TV or transistor radio, therefore power cuts will not adversely affect these homes.

You might say, “Oh, that means I have to re-wire my whole house’, not necessarily. Any properly wired house has the lights on one circuit and outlets on another circuit, it is just a matter of taking the light circuit off the mains and connecting it to the 12 volt source (which must be done by a qualified electrician). All you would have to do is change the bulbs to 12 or 24 volts depending on what voltage used.

Here is where Vinlec can diversify and start selling solar panels, small wind turbines (for those who live in generally windy areas) and small hydro plants (for persons who live close to rivers) and still do business in the energy sector. What we need to ensure is that prices for these devices are affordable so that the average household can benefit from these renewable energy devices and so lessen the demand on Vinlec for diesel generated electricity. In other countries individuals who own medium sized wind turbines, actually tie into the national grid and are paid for the Kilowatt/hours supplied, thereby further reducing their energy bill. These are solutions and are viable ones too!

Since this is the direction that the entire developing world is moving, we can possibly invite investors to set up an industry to assemble wind generators and solar panels (creating employment for Vincentians), reducing the dependence on fossil fuels in the long term, while giving each household so enabled the ‘independence’ to have lights whenever they need it, and if a household is cut off from Vinlec due to non-payment, then students in that household can still study at nights using a 12 volt lighting system using free energy from the sun and wind. I say no more.

I want to close with a commendation to telecommunications service providers Cable & Wireless for providing wireless internet service at the departure lounge at the ET Joshua airport. I was also pleasantly surprised to enjoy a similar service at the Vere Bird Int’l airport in Antigua. During a recent discussion with a good friend from C&W I was informed that this complimentary WiFi (wireless internet) service is available at all English speaking airports in the East Caribbean where C&W does business, a move to be applauded.

Complimentary service

One good move deserves another and I would here suggest that a similar complimentary service be provided at the Community College, UWI Extra-mural Centre, Botanic Gardens (with coverage to include the PM’s residence and School of Nursing), Heritage Square, the Almond Tree in Bequia, at key locations in the Grenadines where itinerant yachtsmen/visitors can access the latest weather and global information, and of course in the C&W pavilion at the Arnos Vale Playing field where spectators with Wifi enabled PDA’s can share the latest scores, pictures and other trivia with their peers locally or anywhere in the world.

This means that mom or dad can be at the Botanic Gardens chatting on line with family overseas while the kids are exercising, or vice versa., or students continuing their research in a relaxed atmosphere. If we are talking seriously about the education revolution then these facilities must be made available to the public. I’m certain that C&W will be extending this service in the near future, not because I wrote about it, but because they too know that this service is important as we develop as a nation and region as a whole, that’s why they provided that service at ET Joshua in the first place.

In St. Maarten, Mc Donald’s advertises free wifi at one of their outlets, I think Kentucky can do the same here at one or both of their outlets. In closing, C&W, thanks again for Wifi at the airport, the general public eagerly anticipates the extension of this service at key locations.

Donald De Riggs.