Roatan has the highest consumer energy costs in the Caribbean, so it is especially surprising that so few efforts are made to reduce the usage of energy thru design and use of solar and wind power. In an effort at changing the perception that solar power is unaffordable and difficult to install NECA (National Electrical Contractor Association), Penn State University, and Vegas Electric partnered in bringing one such project to Roatan. In three days, on March 7 thru 9, 12 Penn State students installed a 2.4 kilowatt solar panel system for a community water pump at Concellation Bight, on Roatan’s southern shore. This is the second solar system that Penn State Students donated to Roatan as in 2007 a 2.5 kW grid-tied solar system was commissioned at the Sandy Bay Alternative School.
According to Raymond McBride, on whose property the well and the community
18,000 gallon cistern is located, the people spend around Lps. 8,000 a month for the electricity that runs the pump. McBride says that the well was drilled in 2007 for 113 houses in Concellation Bight, will benefit from a solar water pump. The Penn State students expect these costs to be lowered by about 60%. “They gave us fruit and water. They have been definitely part of the project,” said Paul Devito, 21, a third year student at Penn State, one of 12 students that came to help with the project.
Wally Connor owner of Tyson’s Electric has identified around half a dozen projects on the island that could benefit from Penn State University donation and work. “They decided that this was the most beneficial,” said Connor. The decision on choosing the site was made based on the scale of impact on the community, accountability and community participation.
The solar system could actually generate money to the community if one piece of the puzzle was set in place. One missing element of the puzzle is the RECO “forward-backward” or “net” meters that would allow the community to “sell back” the excess energy produced during the day. No such meters have been installed on the island. [/private]