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Green energy plan moving in right direction

Sunny outlook: Bermuda aspires to meet 35 per cent of its electricity needs using renewable sources by 2025 (Photograph by AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

Bermuda is continuing to explore and implement renewable and “cleaner” energy options, and is seeking to have renewable sources meet 35 per cent of the island’s electricity needs by 2025.

That aspiration was reiterated by Grant Gibbons, the Minister of Economic Development, as he applauded a landmark moment earlier this month when Portugal met its entire electricity needs for four consecutive days using renewable energy.

For 107 hours the European country, which has a population of 10 million, met its electricity requirements using a combination of solar, wind and hydro power. Last year renewable sources together provided 48 per cent of the country’s electricity needs.

“It’s fantastic that Portugal has been able to change their energy needs from dirty sources to clean sources,” said Dr Gibbons.

However, he pointed out that there are some important differences between Portugal and Bermuda, one being the ability for Portugal to connect to the electricity grids of neighbouring Spain and nearby France in order to address any shortfall in energy production when renewables sources are not able to meet demand. Dr Gibbons said that was necessary because solar panels could not harness energy at night, and wind power was also dependent on weather conditions.

The minister further noted the difference in available land area for solar farms and wind turbines in Portugal, compared to Bermuda’s limited space.

However, the island is moving in the direction of renewable sources, as evident from the electricity policy statement last year, which set out aspirational figures. By 2020, the aim is to have 8 per cent of the island’s energy needs provided for by renewable sources, increasing to 35 per cent by 2025.

Businesses such as Gorham’s and Lindo’s Group of Companies have been running sizeable solar panel arrays for a number of years, while other businesses have stepped up their use of energy efficient equipment to counter rising energy costs.

Meanwhile, Belco and its parent Ascendant Group are looking at alternative sources of electricity generation and have drawn up an Integrated Resource Plan for consideration by the Energy Commission.

An increase in the availability of liquefied natural gas, and the possibility of larger scale solar power operations, are among options being mulled.

One area of Bermuda that has been earmarked as a potential solar power facility is the peninsula of land known as “The Finger” at LF Wade International Airport. It is anticipated that project will go out to tender later in the summer.

“There’s about 80 or 90 acres of land there. Whether we use all of it is still to be seen. It is a nice opportunity for us to use that land for solar and photovoltaic energy production,” Dr Gibbons said.

He estimated the project might produce about 25MW of peak load electricity, with peak load referring to daytime electricity use.

Dr Gibbons said the solar power would not help with night-time demand, but anticipated changes as things evolved regarding electricity storage options. He added that various models are being looked at with regard to the proposed project before it is put out to tender.

As for other alternative energy solutions, he said wind was one possibility, although there is reluctance among many people about placing wind turbines off the island’s coast. And he noted that there is continuing growth in the use of solar panels by householders and businesses, and he said that there was room for that to increase further.

Until fairly recently, the Bermuda Government had been providing subsidies totalling about $800,000 to encourage the installation of solar panels by residents and the private sector.

“The good news is we do not think we are going to need subsidies as the cost of solar panels is going down and has become quite competitive,” said Dr Gibbons.