Bahamas Government progressing to cleaner energy as BPL commissions Ragged Island solar microgrid

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Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis Q.C and Deputy PM Chester Cooper at Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony.

RAGGED ISLAND, The Bahamas – A battery energy storage system and a solar rooftop programme are among initiatives of the Bahamas Government toward cleaner energy nationwide.

“We are investing $14.2 million in installing a 25 MW battery energy storage system at the Baillou Hill Power Plant. Additionally, our administration will budget $1.9 million for our solar rooftop program, so that clinics, public libraries and schools can be part of our nation’s renewable energy progress. I am excited to announce that the Ministry of Public Works is assessing eight government buildings for this programme,” said the Hon. Philip Davis, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.

Thirty-five million dollars have also been earmarked for the installation of solar photovoltaic systems in the Family Islands and feasibility studies for Inagua, Mayaguana, Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Cay and North Andros have also been concluded.

The Prime Minister made the announcements at the commissioning of Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) Ragged Island solar microgrid, Friday, August 12, 2022.

Following the one-hour ceremony, he clipped the ribbon signaling the official commissioning of the southern island’s solar microgrid, which secured Best Resilience Project Award at Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum (CREF) industry awards for 2022. The awards recognize excellence in projects, programs and people promoting clean energy transition in the Caribbean. 

Prime Minister Davis said the event was first and foremost about the people of Ragged Island.

“The people – the many people – who worked to make today possible – local residents, non-profits, the private sector, and government policy-makers and workers, too. And today is also about all the people of The Bahamas, who recognize that small communities in our Family Islands are an essential thread in our national fabric and deserve our robust commitment and support.

“Every family and every business in The Bahamas knows that energy costs are too high, service is too unreliable, and past promises of progress haven’t panned out. And every Bahamian knows that climate change is a real threat – not in some distant future, but right now. If there was ever any doubt, Irma and Dorian erased those doubts with a vengeance.

“And as we continue our advocacy on the world stage for change – including an important meeting for regional governments which we will host right here in our country next week – we need to walk the walk, too. We contribute a tiny, tiny percentage of the world’s emissions, but we are going to be part of climate solutions in many ways in the years to come, including by keeping our own commitment to generate at least 30% of our energy from renewable sources by 2030. This investment in Ragged Island means greener energy and less dependence on subsidies, and crucially – it means more resilience in the face of future hurricanes.”

The Prime Minister said the Ministry of Finance and the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit are working hard to expand renewable energy, an expansion in part made possible by an IDB-funded loan of $80 million and a $9 million EU-CIF grant.

“We will invest more than $36 million in renewable infrastructure in Abaco and East Grand Bahama. The focus of this investment in Abaco will include $18 million for the restoration of electricity services and the rehabilitation of physical infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Dorian. We will also invest $4.5 million in the installation of five microgrids in East End Grand Bahama.”

Pedro Rolle, BPL Chairman, described the occasion as “momentous” and worthy of celebration. He said it is also an indication that BPL is “able” and “ready” to partially or completely solarize energy supply in any of its territories in keeping with the national energy policy and The Bahamas’ goal of renewable energy by 2030.

He welcomed special guests including residents of the island, the Hon. Chester Cooper, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism; Luther Smith and David Davis Permanent Secretaries; Bachus Rolle and Leon Lundy, Parliamentary Secretaries; Ambassador to the Vatican, Joseph Curry, senior government officials, representatives of the Ministry of Finance; executives, staff and representatives of the board of BPL, employees of the Ministry of Works and Utilities, representatives of Salt Energy and other sub-contractors.

Burlington Strachan, Chief Operating Officer, engineer and project manager said, “There have been bumps along the way, teething pains, but all of these have helped further our knowledge and experience with respect to planning, implementation and operation of these types of integrated service systems. We have learned that as a company we can successfully implement these solutions. What we need are the key resources of land, finances and a commitment to getting the projects done.”

The Hon. Alfred Sears, Minister of Works and Utilities, expressed pride for the residents of Ragged Island, patriotic citizens many of whom have been made climate refugees.

“We’re so proud that you have taught us how to build a nation. Today, we celebrate the first step in a journey of national sustainability, resilience and the reduction in the carbon footprint of The Bahamas in the generation of clean, reliable and affordable energy. This is a holistic, integrated approach integrating renewable in the generation of power.”

He acknowledged the “incredible” scientists, quantity surveyors and engineers who worked on the project. “These extraordinary Bahamian scientists and engineers have done an extraordinary job in building this utility scale solar facility which concretizes the commitment reflected in the Blueprint for Change, in the national development plan and the Prime Minister’s bold declaration in Glasgow at COP 26 that The Bahamas by 2030 will realize a minimum of 30% in the power generation from renewable energy.”

DPM Cooper said the project is a demonstration that “we the people of Ragged Island we’re not only resilient but we are trailblazers. While we admire what some of the other small islands have done we declare today that Ragged Island is the first major island in all of The Bahamas to be 100 % solar.”  He thanked the residents for their resilience, energy and commitment.

The project entails a 401KW solar field, comprising 924 individual solar panels.  It is integrated with a 1200 kwh battery storage unit and a diesel generator automation system.  A tour of the field followed the ceremony.