Each day as the sun bathes the 35.14 square miles of Anguilla, there is one spot where perhaps its rays are appreciated as more than just the signal of another beautiful day in paradise. The four-acre spot stands out from the surrounding topography. The green scrub has been removed and replaced with blue and silver solar panels. This is the location where the Anguilla Electricity Company Ltd (ANGLEC) took its first step into the arena of renewable energy by constructing a one megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) plant.
There is strong renewable energy potential on the island, mainly from resources like solar and wind. ANGLEC CEO, David Gumbs, says the path towards incorporating renewable energy into the electricity generation process, and identifying the right energy source, was a long one.
“It is something that took a lot of learning and researching of the various technologies, particularly here at ANGLEC,” he said.
“We are so small a utility company and so small an island, big things like this make an even bigger impact on us and the services we deliver. So it’s something that we always have to think about thoroughly to make sure that we are getting into the right system,” Gumbs noted.
Gumbs said that eventually, the company chose solar energy but with the caveat that “if we are going to make strides, let’s do it in bite-size steps.”
The company decided that a one megawatt PV plant was a manageable “bite-size” and they approached the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) for funding. CDB’s Board of Directors approved a loan of USD2.34 million, including funding from EIB’s Climate Action Line of Credit (CALC), and the Government of Anguilla invested USD1 million for the installation and commissioning of the plant. The CALC funds offer an interest subsidy to encourage climate mitigation and adaptation investments.
“For us, one megawatt sounds small but it’s actually huge and it makes a big impact on our system, particularly during the low-peak days, when things are just moving smoothly. So what we said is, economically, we could probably pursue a little more; technically, let’s see how this works,” Gumbs said.
The civil works for the project commenced in January 2016, and on May 21, the plant was integrated into ANGLEC’s power grid. It is projected to save approximately 384,000 litres of diesel fuel and avoid 1,028 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions on an annual basis.
Gumbs notes that the installation and integration of the PV plant has generated a new level of interest and excitement about renewable energy among the residents of the island.
“There is appetite for even more. A lot of people are excited that we’re in the door, so we’re just going to keep moving,” he said.
The solar PV plant is CDB’s sixth intervention in the energy sector in Anguilla, and supports the Government of Anguilla’s goal of transforming the country into a low carbon economy. The country has set a national target of producing 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.