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Solar making inroads into commercial sector

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Nature’s power: workers prepare for the installation of the biggest solar power project in Hamilton at the Corporation’s Laffan Street depot (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The company undertaking the largest single-site installation of solar panels in Hamilton, is seeing a significant increase in interest in solar energy from the commercial sector.

Bermuda Alternate Energy won the contract to install 210 solar panels on the roof of the City of Hamilton’s works depot on Laffan Street. The panels will cover an area of approximately 3,785 sq ft.

Roof fittings have been put in place, and the panels are expected to be attached during the coming weeks. It is expected the City of Hamilton will save $37,000 per year on its energy costs.

Speaking to The Royal Gazette, Nick Duffy, divisional manager of Bermuda Alternate Energy, said the company has seen an uptick in interest for solar panels from the commercial sector.

Advances in technology, and the declining cost of solar panels have made them more attractive as a cost-effective, environmentally friendly option.

Mr Duffy estimates that since about 2012 when commercial installations were first rolled out in Bermuda, the power of the solar panels has increased from about 225 watts of power, to 330 watts today.

“That’s about a 50 per cent increase in power in the same footprint and a very significant, exponential drop in cost.”

In terms of a system paying back its initial capital costs, that is usually achieved with 5½ to seven years.

“That is the benchmark. In some cases we beat that. A lot varies with type of roof and how much remediation needs to be done, things like that,” said Mr Duffy.

The installation for the City of Hamilton will generate 103,846 kilowatt hours of electricity each year, which will be consumed by the works depot.

Mr Duffy said: “In most of the commercial sites, they more or less will self-consume everything they make. These buildings have a significant energy base load, with things like air conditioning running 24/7, and pumping systems.”

While storage options for commercial customers are not generally available, residential users can save the energy from their household solar system panels to use later in the day after the sun has gone down. This is done by using lithium storage batteries.

“We are doing lithium-ion storage for residential and we are doing that with LG Chem batteries.”

Looking to the future, Mr Duffy said battery storage will be the big trend.

“The price of storage is rapidly coming down, internationally that is loud and clear. It is going to be the norm before too long that the majority of PV (photovoltaic) systems are going to have storage. The price for battery storage is exponentially coming down, exactly the same it did for PV modules.”

The solar panel installation at the City of Hamilton’s works depot is being managed on behalf of the authority by ABM, and it is due to be completed by mid-May.

Green energy: the roof of the City of Hamilton’s works depot on Laffan Street where 210 solar panels will be installed by Bermuda Alternative Energy (Photograph supplied)