Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Government looking to amend legislation for use of solar energy

FREEPORT - Minister of State for the Environment Phenton Neymour said Government is looking at amending existing legislation to allow persons to use solar energy in their homes.

Mr Neymour, who was in Grand Bahama for the launch of the national energy efficiency programme, said Government is encouraging Bahamians throughout the country to conserve energy in their homes.

On Saturday, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) were distributed to hundreds of residents here on Grand Bahama.

CFLs are energy-efficient and use 75 per cent less energy compared to the incandescent light bulbs. CFL bulbs last for three to five years and result in a savings of $20 per bulb annually.

According to Mr Neymour, approximately 50,000 CFLs have been distributed throughout New Providence and 100,000 in the Family Islands.

Additionally, he noted it is Government's objective to address the current legislation which hinders individuals using solar energy in their homes and interconnecting with the power grid.

The state minister said Government is expected to begin a pilot project using solar power systems next month in an effort to address any potential challenges in interconnecting between the power company and the customer.

"We have 33 solar (power) systems which we will offer to Bahamians; we will raffle it and once individuals are able to pay for installation then we will monitor their system and interconnection with a view of looking at all problems they have with the power company because the design of the system is important for safety reasons," he said.

"We want to ensure it is done safely with a view that later on we can open our current legislation to allow individuals to produce their own energy from solar power and at the same time use energy that is generated from the power company."

State Minister Neymour said there is already a provision in the Electricity Act that allows individuals in the Family Islands to produce up to 25 kilowatts in their own home without requiring provision from a power company.

In New Providence, he noted that individuals can produce up to 250 kilowatts in their home.

Mr Neymour said the solar power systems they are proposing are ones where individuals can get feedback from the power company.

"The sun does not shine 24 hours and so it is cheaper to have a solar (energy) system where you do not have a battery to store that energy during the day to be used at night," he said.

Mr Neymour said the battery is very expensive and lasts for only seven years, and would be more expensive in the long run.

"So it is significantly cheaper if we can eliminate the battery aspect of it where they can produce their own energy in the day and then receive energy from the power company at nights, that makes the use of solar more practical and cheaper. And so that is the direction we are headed."

Mr Neymour said the government is also encouraging Bahamians to look at constructing their homes to be more energy efficient.

He said they will soon be launching solar water heaters which the Government has also purchased under the national energy efficiency programme. "We have a select number of them and we will be offering them to Bahamians in the near future," he said.
Mr Neymour said government continues to conduct research and studies regarding the potential for renewable energy in the Family Islands.

He noted that the island of Andros has the greatest potential for renewable energy.

"We recognised that Andros has a potential bio mass using pine to generate energy and the potential for using algae to produce bio-diesel. We went to Abaco which also has great potential for bio mass," he said.

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