Saint Lucia has launched a project to construct a three megawatt (MW) solar farm in the south of the island, as the island’s first ever utility-scale renewable energy project.
Representatives from Saint Lucia Electricity Services Limited (LUCELEC) and the US-based solar energy firm GRUPOTEC, participated in the ground breaking ceremony on Friday for the project, which when connected to the grid, the solar farm’s 14,900 photovoltaic (PV) panels are expected to generate the equivalent electricity used by nearly 3,500 homes.
They said the project will also off set more than 3,800 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Diesel-powered generators currently account for over 99 per cent of the island’s electricity generation.
As the first generation asset outside of the main diesel plant, this new project begins to mitigate natural disaster and security risks from centralized generation at one location, making the electricity system more resilient against single points of failure.
“LUCELEC’s efforts to add utility-scale renewable energy to its generation mix began as far back as 2002. It’s been a long, and sometimes challenging road since then. It is, therefore, extremely gratifying to finally break ground on this 3 MW solar farm,” said LUCELEC’s managing director Trevor Louisy.
Energy Minister Stephenson King said that the government applauds LUCELEC for its pioneering efforts in the area of utility-scale renewable energy generation.
“We reiterate our continued support and partnership in such undertakings and best wishes are extended for successful project build out and commencement of operations of this 3 MW solar farm,” he added.
Rocky Mountain Institute-Carbon War Room and The Clinton Climate Initiative, an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, alongside global energy and engineering advisory firm DNV GL, provided technical assistance throughout the process of selecting the top solar firm.
The organisations supported LUCELEC in developing the project to attract experienced bidders, evaluating proposals, and facilitating contract negotiations. As part of their assistance, RMI-CWR and CCI worked with LUCELEC in managing an international, open procurement process to ensure the solar farm meets international standards and best practices while obtaining a competitive price for the Caribbean region.
“Caribbean nations like Saint Lucia overwhelmingly rely on imported fossil fuels for electricity generation,” said Jesse Gerstin, Director of Programmes and Policy at CCI.
“The solar farm is the first step in building a more resilient power system that generates electricity from a local, renewable source and reduces St. Lucia’s dependence on imported diesel. This could also help the country recover more quickly in the case of an extreme weather event, such as the recent hurricanes that have devastated neighbouring islands.”
Director of Islands at Rocky Mountain Institute-Carbon War Room, Justin Locke, said the 3 MW solar project will provide a myriad of economic and environmental benefits, “but more importantly it is a first important step in a long journey towards an energy independent St. Lucia”.
In 2016, LUCELEC and the Saint Lucia government jointly developed the National Energy Transition Strategy (NETS), a 20-year energy road map informed by technical analysis from RMI-CWR and CCI that paves the road for a sustainable, reliable, cost-effective and equitable electricity sector using the island’s local resources.