VINLEC encourages customers to invest in solar PV system
August 2, 2013

VINLEC encourages customers to invest in solar PV system

With the constant increase in fuel surcharge on electricity bills, Vincentians may now have an alternative way of reducing their monthly bills.{{more}}

Following a press conference on Tuesday at the Vinlec Cane Hall Engineering Complex, it was revealed that the country’s lone electricity supplier has been experimenting with Photovoltaic since 2010, when they installed a 10 kilowatt system on that building.

That system has been in operation since then and basically it produces about 12 per cent of the energy needs for the building.

A photovoltaic (PV) system is solar energy technology that uses photovoltaic (solar electric) cells to capture the sun’s energy and convert this to electricity, which can be used to power appliances, lights, machinery and other electrical devices.

“As all of you know, over the past five years oil prices have skyrocketed in the world and it has affected every single country, and I dare say every single person in this civilized world of ours, because energy is such an important commodity.

“Whether or not you have electricity, you have to utilize energy. It is the driving force to development and as a result of that, electricity prices across the region, specifically, and I don’t want to say around the world in non oil-producing countries, electricity prices have escalated,” said chief executive officer (CEO) of VINLEC Thornley Myers.

Myers explained that back in 2010, the company started experimenting with solar PV, which is otherwise referred to as grid connected solar PV.

“All grids connected solar PV means is that it is an array of solar panels with an invert connected to the VINLEC network.

“If there is no power being produced by VINLEC, that system does not produce any power, but once it sees power from VINLEC it produces power.

“So, we started back in 2010 and we started experimenting and we’ve seen fairly good results. Back then the cost was fairly significant too, but we couldn’t sit idly by while there was a technology that was evolving that we saw could produce benefits, so we decided that we were going to invest in it.

“Outside of that, all of you would know we had hydro-electricity since back in 1952. Now hydro-electricity has been doing well for VINLEC and had it not been for the hydro-electricity plant, fuel surcharge would have been much higher than they were in the past and today they would have been much higher than if we didn’t have any hydro-electricity,” the CEO stated.

With respect to what VINLEC have done since, Myers said, they have invested in hydro and are now encouraging customers to invest in solar PV.

“.…Seeing that it worked and it produced energy, we went to a programme called Net metering and in this Net metering programme, customers were allowed to install solar PV systems on their homes and with the solar PV systems they generated energy and some of that energy they used went back into the network.

“So, the meter reversed when they produced excess energy than they needed. I want you to understand this. So, persons who installed these solar panels on their homes, during the day when there is quite a bit of sun, if they are not using all the energy that they produce the energy went back out into the network and the meter reversed.

“We allowed it to happen,” Myers added.

It was further explained that only during the night when sun goes down, customers depends on the energy from VINLEC, if a PV solar system is in place.

“It happened that in some cases some of these customers essentially had no bill at the end of the month. They paid VINLEC little or nothing. In some cases, they delivered more energy to VINLEC than they took from VINLEC, so in other words, VINLEC had energy in credit for them, so their bill essentially was a minimum bill.

“We looked at that and we facilitated it and we wanted to make sure that customers see and understand that this technology is there, it can work, it can produce energy and we ourselves were monitoring what has been happening.”

Myers also disclosed that based on the success of that pilot project, VINLEC has decided to embark on a wider project where they would install larger solar power systems that would be directly connected to the grid to produce electricity for use by all of our customers on mainland St Vincent.

“We have installed, as you would have seen when you entered the compound, a much larger system on our stores building, which is actually a 177 kilowatt photovoltaic system.

“That system, based on the research we have done, is actually the largest solar system on a single building in the OECS and Barbados at this point in time.

“….Within the next month, we expect to initiate installations on the West St George Secondary School and the Fair Hall Primary School and later on towards the last quarter of this year, after completing those first two installations, we would move on to do installations on the Central Leeward Secondary School and J.P. Eustace Memorial Secondary School.”

According to the CEO, the total capacity of the four additional systems will be around 363 kilowatts and would give a maximum power output of about 315 kilowatts with a projected annual energy production of about 550, 000 units of electricity and all of that will be put directly on to VINLEC’s grid for the use of all of their customers on mainland St Vincent.

“The total cost of our investments that we are making in solar power for 2013 that includes the 177 kilowatt installation that we just completed on the stores building and the four installations on the schools would amount to in excess of EC$3 million, and we expect that these systems will be active and producing energy for the Vincentian public to use for the next 20 to 25 years.

“So, in total, with all of these five systems, one here at stores and the four school systems, we will have about 550 kilowatts of solar power on the grid towards the end of this year or first quarter of next year producing energy for the benefit of all Vincentians,” Myers further stated. (AA)