Opinion: Energy from wind has preference over solar power on Saba

Dear Editor,

Further to my earlier letter on the issues with the generation of electricity from solar power the following.

There was a public comment on the content of my article, reading: “Even with clouds (that are mainly hanging quite high around the top) solar panels are producing electricity. That is not the case with windmills in case of no wind!”

Physically, there is nothing wrong with this statement. Solar panels will always generate electricity when exposed to any light source. However, the first question is “How much”. This leads to the second question: “Is it an economically viable way to produce electricity on Saba?”

Unfortunately no electricity generating company can be profitable when exploiting solar panels that produce only 30% of their maximum rating. In other words, instead of reducing the electricity bill each month, there will be an increase because these panels do not come free!

Anyone can observe that, on Saba, the clouds are not confined to the top of Mount Scenery only. In fact every location on Saba is subject to major cloud cover.

The lowest cost solar panels available are made in China. These work very well under ideal conditions as found in the major solar parks. These are mainly situated in desert environments. Unfortunately these ideal conditions cannot be found on Saba.

One may question why alternative measures for producing electricity are being discussed so widely? This is because the EU is investigation to introduce a “carbon tax” affecting all polluters. On Saba the Saba Electric Company is the biggest polluter. It is unknown to what this might add to your electricity bill.

So what are our options? Solar panels require direct sunlight. Only in theory this is available some 11 hrs/day. However a wind of 8-10 mph is available on Saba during 24 hrs/day. Wind farms are planned and designed at 50% turbine rating. The earlier proposal comprised 4 turbines, each 600 kW. The leads to 4x600kW = 2400 kW maximum power. The average power would be half of that. This would match the typical power requirement of Saba, i.e., 1100 kW.

Have you ever found a zero wind period on Saba that lasted more than 24 hours? This is the reason that the proposal for generation electricity from alternative sources discussed din 1999-2003, was based on wind energy, not solar panels.

Click here to read my earlier letter on this subject.


Norman Sawyer,

Sunrise Cottage,

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One comment

  1. Jan W.M. Hesselink

    Nobody likes the sight of a windmill near his house. The huge wind masts will ruin the island scenery, they are noisy and produce negative vibration. The only efficient form of energy is Geothermal energy. Nobody talks about it, because it is not sexy as are the other two, wind and solar installations. Look at Dominica and Nevis. Geothermal reservoirs are on the islands and are the only sustainable form of energy. It is on your island as well and studies from the fifties have proven this. Saba has a 3000 MWe. potential, so you can make money with it as well. You don’t hear it, smell it or see it. Hot water/steam turns a turbine and produces power enough for a number of islands. Study physics or buy some good books.

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