Gorham’s manager upbeat over solar energy
A local businessman has described the move to solar energy as a “double-edged sword”.
General manager Andrew Mackay, of Gorham's True Value Home Centre, which is in the process of completing its final instalment of photovoltaic solar energy, said: “Your initial investment is going to be high, but at the same time you want to do something that's good for the environment.
“You've got your moral obligation and your financial obligation. You've got to weigh both of them.”
Mr Mackay's comments come after a Government report, investigating the potential of bringing liquefied natural gas to Bermuda as an alternative to diesel, was tabled last month.
Grant Gibbons, Minister of Economic Development, said that LNG would be more cost effective and produce less harmful emissions. But he noted concerns had been raised about the manner in which it is extracted, and that it would act as a disincentive to adopting renewable energy due to its lower cost.
The report found the deployment of LNG in Bermuda was feasible if the pricing differences between natural gas and oil were sufficiently disparate and that LNG was available on the island.
Solar energy advocates have long extolled the virtues of its generous payback. However, Mr Mackay added that with a “considerable drop in oil prices”, the payback had changed. Where before you could see a return on your investment in five years, it may take a little longer, he said — suggesting seven or eight.
“From a financial standpoint, I would say that if the government came on board with making it a viable option for people, I think it would be great.”
According to Mr Mackay, the company has always aimed for greener solutions, having installed its first solar panels in 2011. And he said they were “ecstatic” with the results of the new system.
“We haven't got the main system online yet because we're the first company to go this large and again the infrastructure is not in place for it. We're like the test pilot. Nobody on the island has a system this big — even close to it.”
Alternative financing solutions could also work, he said, adding that marketing also needed to improve.
“If we can find a solution where the banks, Belco and the solar distributor could come up with an agreement and a package they could offer the people, I think it would do wonders for the island — absolute wonders.”
“There are stacks of methods to do it. It's all about getting the right players in the same room and coming up with a solution.”
Mr Mackay said, once finished, Gorham's would need about 20 per cent of its power from Belco because it would still need battery backups.
“We're excited about it and hopefully people will get on board,” he said.