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Off-Grid Solutions

There has never been a more apt time to reform the British Virgin Islands’ energy resources than now. The Territory has experienced an obligatory ‘reset,’ and the most productive action of the tragic conditions of hurricane Irma, is to prepare as best as humanly possible for ‘survivability’ through any future storms and power outages.

Residents should be investing serious thought into the design of their properties and their backup power supply, so that both remain steadfast during adverse situations. Contemplation on the future of construction and our power needs should be put into practice, even if it means engineering at a slightly higher cost.

In this month’s issue, we have seen what buildings survived and in the accompanying Q&A editorial with alternative energy company aTec, we witness how renewable energy power systems assisted residential and commercial entities during and after the hurricanes.

Such progression reveals the advancement and benefit that battery-based renewable energy systems bring to primary and backup power systems. Now that we are experiencing storms of this magnitude and extended power failures, the financial benefit of renewable energy systems is undeniable. Renewable energy systems offset the cost of fossil fuel, fossil fuel transport, and engine maintenance.

For those unaware, off-grid and backup solutions in the energy industry are systems designed to help people function without the support of a utility like the BVI Electricity Corporation.

Speaking to aTec Managing Director Dana Miller, he explained that the best option available is generally, “automated renewable systems with integrated generators that reduce your operating cost and make managing energy easier. We also have various battery types available to store excess solar energy for use at a later time—effectively a free fuel source.”

The managing director relayed to VIPY that the ideal time to move to off grid solutions—a power supply that can keep running through an adverse condition like a hurricane—is now as duty cost has been waived, but will likely be reinstated at the end of 2017.

aTec advise that any individual who seeks to build their home or business in a remote location, can create their own power at an initial cost that has a reasonable payback period. The system fee can be added to a mortgage and eliminate their electricity bill—the loan repayment will likely be less than their current electricity charges and energy will generally be stored in the latest battery technology.

Moving off grid doesn’t mean an individual or family must cut themselves off from utility power. There is flexibility to integrate a solar power system or hybrid renewable/ fossil fuel with the standard power supply for those who are not ready to make the complete transition to alternative energy. 

Perhaps one of the greatest aspects of alternative energy—aside from protecting the world—is that it makes a resident’s life easier: “Alternative energy will reduce the time and money you spend on generator fuel and generator maintenance. It reduces your expenditure on your primary or backup power. Particularly primary.” Also, one does not have to continually refuel. It comes to the individual from a massive nuclear reactor in the sky—the sun.

The BVI could realistically aim for becoming a global pioneer and advocate in the Caribbean region for decreasing reliance on fossil fuel energy. “All residential and commercial customers should consider the use of a renewable energy system,” said Dana when discussing this aspect of the BVI’s future positioning on an international scale. “We could offset one third of the BVI energy load without considering grid instability.”

The challenge for residents to go off grid has always been the initial financial cost. Realistically, people as a movement will not prevent reliance on fossil fuels until Government makes some infrastructural changes regarding energy.

When asked about the future for off-grid solutions and alternative energy in its entirety, Dana simply said that, “renewable energy is intuitively the superior energy solution. It reduces cost while reducing pollution. It’s like comparing the candle to the laser beam. One is ancient and reliable and the other is modern and efficient. When we combine the two, we have the perfect power solution.”

In pondering the British Virgin Islands’ future as well as its geographical location, climate, and the prospect of the annual hurricane season, the prudent question should now be: what do we do next to facilitate the transition to natural resources as our power supply?

Photography by Dana Miller and Shakti Segura

Erin Paviour-Smith

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