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HomeBusinessHybrid microgrids could drastically decrease Family Islands’ energy costs

Hybrid microgrids could drastically decrease Family Islands’ energy costs

Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) could save up to 30 percent in cross-subsidization costs for family island generation with the installation of hybrid microgrids, according to a United States-based microgrid company seeking to invest in renewable energy systems in The Bahamas.

Brian Gardner, who is the chief development officer of Enernet Global, a New York-based renewable energy company that constructs, operates and maintains microgrids, said given the renewable resources available in The Bahamas there are opportunities to drastically decrease the cost per kilowatt hour of electricity, particularly in the Family Islands.

“Ragged Island was paying 75 cents per kilowatt hour while they still had power prior to the hurricane obviously. That’s a cross subsidy borne on the rest of the system. An installed final delivery solution on most of the Family Islands, you’re probably looking at something in the low 20s for the cost of generation or maybe even the high teens. That would give you 40 to 50 percent decoupling from fuel volatility,” Gardner said yesterday on Guardian Radio talk show “Connected”.

“Right now, oil is about $60 per barrel, last month it was about $50, and a few months before that it was at $80. The reality is it’s going to be up and down and with a solar battery solution or a wind battery solution – in The Bahamas particularly we’re looking at solar, it’s a great resource, it’s stable and easier in a hurricane prone area – when you’re dealing with that you’re going to get 20 to 30 percent savings generally speaking.”

BPL moved closer toward renewable energy earlier this month when it signed a contract with Finnish company Wärtsilä for the installation of seven Wärtsilä 50DF engines that would generate 132 megawatts of power at its Clifton plant, and have the ability to give high output with fuel flexibility, low emissions and can burn natural gas, light fuel oil or heavy fuel oil.

The engines are expected to be installed by the end of the summer and is part of an overall project headed by Shell North America to construct a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant by 2021.

“Choosing to go with natural gas in New Providence is going to lock in a higher capital cost and a longer-termed fixed structure with that, that didn’t have to go that way, but now that it’s going that way I’m not going to comment more on that on the radio,” Gardner said.

“But there is opportunity on the Family Islands where traditionally you’ve seen New Providence cross-subsidizing to them. We today could do 40 to 50 percent renewable projects on every island of the Family Islands, at the price or lower than the price that Shell says it’s delivering in 2021 and beyond when they’ve actually built this plant.”

Gardner was also at the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation’s (BCCEC) Bahamas Energy Security Forum held earlier this week, where he highlighted the possibilities of The Bahamas being able to reduce the cost of electricity by as much as ten percent using renewable energy solutions.

“Right now, The Bahamas’ goal is to have 30 percent renewable penetration by 2030. I think the current status is less than five percent and the main route toward that has been small-scale renewable generation, of which the cap or the max that would be let into that is less than five percent of the total kilowatt hours that the company is going to consume. And so, you’re going to have to look for a lot of other ways to increase that,” he said.

“So, we see opportunities for wind, solar, for battery enabling a higher penetration and a lower long-term cost and a more stable grid here. This is something that we as a microgrid company and as an investor is very interested in in The Bahamas. There’s a huge amount of opportunity and we’re one policy away from greatness.”

Paige McCartney

Business Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas.
Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016.
Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News
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