Barbados appears to be blowing hot and cold over renewable energy projects involving wind power.
Foreign and local experts believe the island has the environmental conditions suitable to produce electrical power from the wind.
However, BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY investigations revealed that Town & Country Planning regulations concerning land use, and the likely interference wind turbines would pose to the radar system at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) were the major stumbling blocks.
Interested investors have already submitted applications to the Town & Country Development Planning Office for wind projects but these are in abeyance until the land and radar issues are solved.
Recently documented information from Town & Country Planning stated: “Wind towers in excess of 300 feet are usually problematic for the current radar system in use at GAIA. It should be noted this matter is under review and the proposed Multilateration system will not be affected by towers of this height.”
Cave Shepherd & Company Limited and its partner RE Power Barbados are among the investors affected by these challenges.
Cave Shepherd recently told its shareholders: “There has been limited progress on the wind energy project RE Power Barbados in which we have an interest.
“Faced with planning permission challenges related to the existing radar system at Grantley Adams International Airport, RE Power will soon be in a position to resubmit its application with fresh data to take into account a new radar system which is due to be installed at the airport.”
Barbados’ failure to solve such problems were criticised in a new report submitted to Government.
It was prepared by German Professor of Energy Economics Olav Hohmeyer, whose company Global Sustainable Energy Consultants Ltd. was contracted by the Division of Energy to produce an Economic Analysis To Facilitate The Establishment Of A Stable Price For Electricity From Renewable Sources.
Hohmeyer, who submitted an interim document dated March 10, 2017 and might have a final report ready by the end of next month, said by international standards it was “not acceptable” that in Barbados “some wind energy projects have been in the licensing and permitting process for more than five years with the end of the process still pending”.
“One special problem of the permitting of wind power installations [is] the distance rulings applied by Town & Country Planning. As different from the international standard rules Town & Country Planning requires minimum distances from the perimeter of the property on which a wind turbine is placed, while the international standard is based on the distance to an object to be protected from the direct impact of wind energy,” he said.
“As the Barbados ruling does not allow to locate wind turbines in the middle of uninhabited agricultural land owned by a several landowners it only allows a small fraction of the wind energy capacity which could be placed on such land as compared to the international standards.”
He added: “If Barbados wants to benefit of its superb wind energy resource and the low cost of wind energy this rule has to be brought up to international standards.”
One of the major proponents for a major wind energy drive in Barbados is mechanical engineer Dr Thomas Rogers. Rogers has been based Department of Computer Science, Mathematics & Physics at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus since December 2009.
He teaches renewable energy resources and the fundamentals of photovoltaic physics and is the programme coordinator for the Department’s MSc in renewable energy management.
Rogers’ research has concluded that wind power is “by far” the cheapest way to generate electricity”, and was likely to remain so “for some time”. He also calculated that a two megawatt wind turbine could power 2 400 homes in Barbados.
However, he said there were several “next steps for turning technical potential into reality”. These were a more detailed wind resource assessment, a wind power electrical integration study, incorporation of wind into the next Physical Development Plan, a new radar system at GAIA, and public involvement in the ownership and benefits of wind.
Writing recently for the Central Bank’s Economic Insight.bb publication, Rogers said: “The higher wind speed locations in Barbados are the farming areas in St Lucy, extending down above the boundary between St Andrew and St Peter, the area around Cattlewash and Barclay’s Park in St Andrew, and farmland above Hackleton’s Cliff in St John and St Joseph, stretching down and round into St Philip and Christ Church.”
The Barbados & Light Power Company Limited has long earmarked Lambert’s, St Lucy for a 10 megawatt wind farm. It received planning permission but has been working through issues related to the venture, including an agreement with landowner Sagicor.
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