Solar power pilot project on Bonaire

Amigoe reports that, when on Tuesday, March 31 the ‘Solar Pilot Project’ in Barcadera opened, Bonaire started generating electrical energy with solar panels. Alfredo Koolman, Director of Water and Energy Bonaire, explains what the future of solar energy is on the island.

“Yes, it’s a logical question why an island with so much sun is just beginning now with solar energy. However, you must remember that it is a relatively expensive form of energy. Diesel is still the cheapest, then wind, and then sun. Because even though that seems free, the equipment needed to produce the energy and to convert it – the panels, inverter, batteries – make that solar energy was not competitive for a long time. ”

Due to recent technological developments, especially in China, it has become financially more attractive to produce solar energy, says Koolman.

So WEB started a pilot project on Barcadera. “That was constructed in ten days,” laughs Koolman, “because that’s a big advantage: you can set up a field of solar panels quite quickly. While you need heavy equipment for a wind, and also to build a diesel engine takes a year or so. ”

The nearly eight hundred panels were installed on Barcadera, the ancient site of Radio Netherlands Worldwide. They are already operational and through the network, they provide about sixty to seventy households with electrical energy. “The energy is 25,000 to 30,000 kWh per month. But, “said Koolman,” solar energy is erratic. You depend on nature. At night you have no sunlight and if a cloud slides before the sun, the production drops quickly to only 50 or 75 percent. Those fluctuations in can be compensated with batteries or a flywheel. ”

The ‘Solar Pilot project will run until late May. The coming time we will be accurately observing the influence of the distribution of solar energy on the grid. Data on radiation, temperature and wind speed are carefully registered. Weekly analysis of the measurements must provide the necessary insight into possible adjustments, performance and the future potential of solar energy.

The first results of the pilot are encouraging, says Koolman “When the new energy law BES will come into effect, possibly in 2016, people can decide for themselves whether they want to put solar panels on their roof. WEB also wants to investigate if it is possible to set up a ‘Solar Garden’. One big park, or several smaller parks on different locations on the island where we could generate central solar energy. The advantage of generating centrally is that the network remains stable. Bonaire has a small, sensitive electricity network. Already today it is fed from supply of wind power and energy from diesels. Adding solar energy should be done very carefully. ”

Such Solar Garden could take the form of a cooperative in which residents, companies and institutions can invest. Koolman: “In this way, for example, solar energy could be provided to social housing projects.”

Although his enthusiasm for green energy has increase significantly since he visited  the ‘Green Conference” in Aruba in 2013,, Koolman remains a realist: “Even though we have a lot of wind and sun, the island will not be able to change to 100 percent green electricity in the short term. However that does not change the fact that we already are greener than many other countries. 33 percent of all energy consumed is from wind power. If we are going to generate more solar energy, but it could quickly result in a situation where about 45 percent of the electricity produced by WEB is green. “

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