Today representatives from St. Lucia Electricity Services Limited (LUCELEC) and solar energy firm GRUPOTEC broke ground on a 3 megawatt (MW) solar farm in Saint Lucia, the first ever utility-scale renewable energy project on the island. The 3 MW facility is located near the Hewanorra International Airport in the south of the island.
When connected to the grid, the solar farm’s 14,900 photovoltaic (PV) panels are expected to generate the equivalent electricity used by nearly 3,500 homes, while offsetting over 3,800 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually. Diesel-powered generators currently account for over 99 percent of the island’s electricity generation. As the first generation asset outside of the main diesel plant at Cul de Sac, this new project begins to mitigate natural disaster and security risks from centralized generation at one location, making the electricity system more resilient against single points of failure.
“LUCELEC’s efforts to add utility-scale renewable energy to its generation mix began as far back as 2002. It’s been a long, and sometimes challenging road since then. It is, therefore, extremely gratifying to finally break ground on this 3 MW solar farm today,” LUCELEC’s Managing Director Trevor Louisy said.
“The Government applauds LUCELEC for its pioneering efforts in the area of utility-scale renewable energy generation,” said Minister Stephenson King, Minister of Infrastructure, Ports, Energy and Labour. “We reiterate our continued support and partnership in such undertakings and best wishes are extended for successful project build out and commencement of operations of this 3 MW solar farm.”
Rocky Mountain Institute-Carbon War Room and The Clinton Climate Initiative, an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, alongside global energy and engineering advisory firm DNV GL, provided technical assistance throughout the process of selecting the top solar firm. The organizations supported LUCELEC in developing the project to attract experienced bidders, evaluating proposals, and facilitating contract negotiations. As part of their assistance, RMI-CWR and CCI worked with LUCELEC in managing an international, open procurement process to ensure the solar farm meets international standards and best practices while obtaining a competitive price for the Caribbean region.
“Caribbean nations like Saint Lucia overwhelmingly rely on imported fossil fuels for electricity generation,” said Jesse Gerstin, Director of Programs and Policy at CCI. “The solar farm is the first step in building a more resilient power system that generates electricity from a local, renewable source and reduces Saint Lucia’s dependence on imported diesel. This could also help the country recover more quickly in the case of an extreme weather event, such as the recent hurricanes that have devastated neighboring islands.”
“The 3 MW solar project will provide a myriad of economic and environmental benefits—but more importantly it is a first important step in a long journey towards an energy independent Saint Lucia,” said Justin Locke, Director of Islands at Rocky Mountain Institute-Carbon War Room.
In 2016, LUCELEC and the Government of Saint Lucia jointly developed the National Energy Transition Strategy (NETS), a 20-year energy roadmap informed by technical analysis from RMI-CWR and CCI that paves the road for a sustainable, reliable, cost-effective and equitable electricity sector using the island’s local resources. One of the top findings in the NETS was the integration of utility-scale solar in Saint Lucia’s energy mix to achieve the least-cost system, and the 3 MW solar farm is the first project commensurate with this plan.
The contract to begin the engineering, procurement and construction of the solar project was signed by LUCELEC and GRUPOTEC in June of 2017. The construction of the solar farm is expected to be completed by spring of 2018.
Representing the Government of Saint Lucia, Hon. Lenard Montoute, Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Equity, Social Justice and Empowerment; Hon. Stephenson King, Minister of Infrastructure, Ports, Energy and Labour; and Hon Dr. Kenny Anthony, Parliamentary Representative—Vieux Fort South were also present at the groundbreaking ceremony.
Saint Lucia project guidance provided by RMI-CWR is made possible by the support of the Global Environment Facility in partnership with the United Nations Development Program. Guidance provided by CCI is supported through government aid funding from Norway.