most people think of the Caribbean, they think of cruise ships, white sand and
sunshine. It’s the latter that may turn out to be most important for these
islands. The island nations of the Caribbean may pay high prices for things
they need to import, but when it comes to sunshine, they’ve got plenty. That’s
why, in the face of a failing Petrocaribe and rising energy prices, Caribbean islands are likely to turn to
solar power to shore up their energy requirements.
zoom in on the Caribbean and look at Jamaica for a moment. The country receives
5 times their annual energy requirement in solar radiation, but only 1% of the country’s energy demand is being met via solar. This in spite of
the fact that,renewable energy is 40% cheaper than energy from fossil fuel (both in
Jamaica and other islands in the Caribbean as well). That’s why Jamaica is
aiming to incorporate renewable energy, to the tune of 20% of their total energy needs by 2030.
nations are diverse, but they all enjoy an immense amount of sunshine which ties
them together as an excellent area for implementing widespread solar power.
Banks and lending institutions are beginning to help fund these projects
throughout the Caribbean, notably in Barbados, which is hoping to create the largest rooftop solar system south of Puerto Rico.
course, any time solar is mentioned, it should also be coupled with a
discussion about incorporating storage with that solar. Energy storage technology not only helps “capture” solar energy
for use during non-sunny periods, but it can also smooth out minor fluctuations during any period. In order to foster
widespread adoption of solar power, and obtain the maximum benefit from it, energy
storage must be incorporated into the equation.
Caribbean countries don’t need to store energy for very long, since they get so
much sun each day. For most of these countries, energy storage will simply help
to smooth out small fluctuations from passing clouds during the day and of
course store energy for use during night time hours. Many Caribbean countries
are likely to implement site-specific solutions, such as pumped hydro, to store
energy. However, the geographic requirements of these solutions make them less
than optimal, if not impossible, for every situation. Revisiting Jamaica for a
moment, we see that while pumped hydro can be implemented near “viable
waterways,” according to a report from WorldWatch.org, it is battery storage technology that will
most likely be the country’s near term solution.
focus on Jamaica is due to its trade imbalance - the cost of its imported oil
was nearly quadruple the value of the
island’s exports in 2012. However, islands across the Caribbean
are currently dependent on imported oil. Meanwhile, the technical potential for renewable energy
development across the Caribbean is astonishing.
Renewable energy solutions, like solar, could very well represent a sustainable
future for these islands.