The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) commits to building two Zero-Energy Houses as learning labs for renewable energy, developing new coursework and degree offerings, and creating outreach events for public education in order to expand access to renewable energy education and increase public support for renewable energy in the USVI.
UVI will collaborate with experts in storm-resilient construction and renewable energy systems to build two Zero-Energy Houses, creating four jobs during the construction process. One on each of its campuses, these will function as solution hubs for the students to grapple with energy challenges faced in the US Virgin Islands. The houses will be equipped with solar modules, a micro wind turbine, a generator, batteries, and electrical appliances to demonstrate how energy is generated, used and conserved.
First, these Houses will serve as laboratories to support the integration of RE content into existing courses for 50 UVI students majoring in Process-Technology, Physics, and those taking Natural Science courses. Additionally, students in the Physics department will build prototypes of daily household equipment, like solar phone chargers and solar water pumps to demonstrate their low-cost and feasibility.
The houses will be integrated in the development of a new Associate Degree program in Renewable Energy Systems for 20 students. A full-time Coordinator will be hired to run this program. Additionally, UVI will develop a 40-hour NABCEP training course for those students and an additional 10 community members.
Finally, the house in St. Thomas will also be used for public outreach. Rotating demonstrations will be incorporated into the project every two months to showcase the use of RE in the Virgin Islands. For example, FarmPod, a locally based start-up that specializes in Off-Grid farming solutions has committed to help demonstrate an agricultural solution powered by the Zero-Energy House. The rotating demonstrations will be coordinated and installed by two new part time staff members and supported by three part time student coordinators.
The action plan is composed of 3 different parts. The first is the development of the various new course offerings; followed by the construction of the zero-energy houses; and the integration of the houses into existing courses, into the new developed courses, and into outreach activities.
Development of new course offerings:
Develop 40-hour NABCEP certification training material: January 2019 - May 2019
Develop material for the Associate Degree in RE: January 2019 – December 2019
Test curriculum for new Special Topics Classes: January 2020 – June 2020
Design and Construction of the two Zero-Energy Houses:
Consult with solar experts, clean energy workforce organizations, and resilient design groups to determine a design for the Zero-Energy Houses: January 2019 – May 2019
Construction of the Zero-Energy Houses: May 2019 – August 2019
Integrate ZEH into Existing Courses, New Courses, and Outreach Activities: September 2019 – December 2019.
Create a schedule of outreach events and material for the Fall 2019 session: May 2019 – August 2019.
Conduct launch events for rotating demonstrations every two months: September 2019 – June 2020
Access to energy in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) is a source of frustration: costumers experience frequent blackouts and the cost of electricity can be as high as $0.50 per kWh. Hurricanes Maria and Irma damaged the already fragile grid and magnified many of these challenges. Despite the strong solar energy potential in this sun-rich Territory, few households are equipped with renewable energy (RE) generation systems and the majority of the population relies on the main utility provider, which generates most of its energy from polluting, expensive, imported diesel.
One reason for the lack of progress is the lack of understanding of the potential for renewable energy systems in USVI. USVI needs a community demonstration project to educate the public and promote the benefits of clean and resilient energy throughout the Territory. Additionally, there is a lack of locally-based solar professionals. When the Net-Meter Program began phasing out two years ago, many of the existing solar companies closed shop, leaving a void of professionals who can design and install solar PV. Most companies operating in USVI do not have technicians with NABCEP certification. With the new surge of interest in solar plus storage technology in the Caribbean, especially since the 2017 Hurricanes, it is essential that a local workforce is developed to support the deployment and to ensure that local young people have access to good-paying jobs in this growing sector. This is especially significant given that the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority has over 50 MW of renewable energy projects in the pipeline for the Virgin Islands.
As a center of technology development and energy research for the Territory, the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) Caribbean Green Technology Center is best positioned to drive forward progress and close the gap around public education and workforce development.
UVI is seeking industry partners to equip the Zero-Energy Houses (solar modules, wind turbines, inverters, batteries, etc.). UVI is also seeking industry partners to purchase smaller solar-powered tools and equipment for daily house use (e.g., solar powered lamps, cell-phone chargers, etc.) and a few solar-powered generators for demonstration and potentially giveaways. Finally, UVI is seeking partners to help support the salary of the NABCEP and PT 110 class teachers, and of the outreach events coordinators, as well as stipends for students during summer internship at the University or with a solar power company.
UVI will offer partners the use of the facilities that will be created for their own outreach and educational needs. UVI will offer public and private partners best practice information, and a forum and venue to discuss and advance the penetration of RE in the USVI and in the Caribbean. UVI will also partner on any RE project with partners, as appropriate, whether it’s outreach, workforce development, workshop hosting or organization, research and/or education.