Green Solutions advocates 100 per cent energy independence
Zahra Ennis, marketing director for Saddle Energy Ltd,a full-service solar solutions company in Jamaica, hascompleted the North American Board of Certified EnergyPractitioners (NABCEP) Associate training course inphotovoltaics (PV) installation, offered through GreenSolutions International (GSI) SKN Incorporated, a CaribbeanNGO and an NABCEP-registered training provider.
Wayne Archibald, a Kittitian and executive director of solar company Green Solutions International (GSI), is advocating that island governments and other funding agencies collaborate to fund workforce development programmes for the recruitment, training and provision of economic development opportunities to people from the lower socio-economic strata and women in the green economy.
GIS has been targeting solar installation and e-mobility. E-mobility involves the switch from diesel vehicles to electric vehicles.
Women and the underprivileged, Archibald told the Jamaica Observer in an exclusive interview, need to be integrated through policy into the workforce and be trained for an economy which is energy independent.
The Caribbean islands, he outlined, because of their size and abundance of sunlight, are well positioned to reach 100 per cent energy independence, with solar solutions for homes and businesses, working with local utility companies across the region, that would provide savings at all levels.
Archibald outlined that GIS has been active in helping regional governments to improve skills levels in solar installations and also in technical upskilling for mechanics in new e-mobility systems.
He said that in the last six years, “GSI has been bringing industry-leading technical training and education in the solar industry to the Caribbean in order to develop the workforce, to build capacity and to also provide safe installations of solar systems.”
The company has been focusing on developing the workforce in order to build capacity within the Caribbean region in solar installations, with Archibald noting that safety standards need to be improved.
He said, “We also see the need for safe and efficient solar installations. If you are going to build a house and need an electrician, you will not get someone off the street. You will get someone qualified and certified to ensure no electrical problems later on. This is what we want to do for the solar industry.
“There are many players who claim to be solar installers but I don’t think they are being trained properly to follow the code and safely install these systems. We have seen a lot of systems which are poorly installed leaving businesses and homes in a bind. They have to go out now and find someone who is qualified to redo their installation. That’s one of the ways we try to reduce the carbon footprint by developing the workforce.”
The GSI team, he indicates, has over 20 years experience in installing solar for both residential and commercial level. The team has also been working in areas of e-mobility helping the Government move diesel vehicles into electricity.
GSI also provides training in Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for regional government employees. Archibald said, “EIAs are used to evaluate any major project to help them determine project feasibility. We have trained local people who have to interact with developers overseas to check whether a project is feasible.”
GSI, which has been in operation since 2016 and which started in St Kitts and Nevis and expanded later to Jamaica, now operates throughout the entire region.
Archibald asserted that each Caribbean island, while much smaller than other nations in the region, is also more susceptible to the impacts of climate change, but all hold a trump card in the form of an abundance of sunlight.
“These two factors can be the driving force to provide 100 per cent energy independence. We have the capacity to do this.” Failure to make more progress in this direction, he notes, is due to the practice of island governments to focus on paying large sums to companies from overseas instead of developing local technical capacity and supporting home-grown experts.
Archibald asserted, “They have been brought in and given massive contracts for solar systems (to foreign companies) and our local people are left out in the cold. What we want to do is build capacity in the local economy to support growth and support local communities.
“Once people have been trained well enough and certified to do these jobs, that will have a direct impact on our economies,” he said.
The company head said solar installations for residences and companies could lead to savings, with an upfront cost of US$10,000 to US$15,000 which could be recouped in five years from reduced utility payments.
He said, “For businesses they will see an increase in profit margin and for householders they will take home more with less spent on utility bills. For banks and supermarkets, etc, the kind of solutions we provide will make them more profitable, providing more money to do what they want to do. “
He said GSI aimed to educate individuals on whether or not purchasing a solar system makes sense financially. “For companies which are paying $60,000 monthly or more, it makes sense for them because of the resulting savings.”
He recommends, on average, a 10-15 KW system for homes which cost in the range of US$10-15,000 depending on whether or not it is a grid tied system or a system with batteries. The batteries add 25 per cent to cost.
Archibald said that collaboration with local utilities was increasing savings across the region. “We should look to partner with energy companies to reduce costs. We have been all over the Caribbean providing training and certification. One common refrain we hear is we need to get rid of the utility. We need to get rid of JPS. JPS is no good.”
“However, in reality we need to work with the utility in order to get a lower cost of electricity for our citizens. We do need them. We need to work and have a closer relationship in order to provide a more cost effective and lower cost electricity for our citizens.”
GSI also does training with utilities in systems installation for inspectors and designers as well. The executive director said, “We are slowly building capacity in the region. We are moving in the right direction.”
Three years ago when St Kitts and Nevis wanted to convert school buses to electric vehicles, they hired GSI and later added the project to convert public transport from diesel to electric vehicles.
Archibald outlined, “We did feasibility studies and GPS studies for charging stations. We also have been helping government colleges and universities to develop a curriculum so we can train mechanics and first responders on how to maintain electric vehicles. We are actively involved in developing training programmes for mechanics and others for maintenance of electric vehicles.”
The move towards energy independence needs acceleration, Archibald said, “In order to get more under-represented populations involved in the solar industry. It is a male-dominated industry, we need more women. Even across the US there are not a lot of people of African descent. A lot of contractors that come into the islands are not local. So we need to improve representation.”
He concluded, “Government and funding agencies must write and enact legislation that will fund workforce development programmes that will recruit and train more local populations and also for women. More companies also should implement apprenticeship so workers can earn and learn.”
“We have great potential in the region, but that capacity will not be realised,” Archbald told the Caribbean Business Report, “unless the level of technical training and education is improved.”
The growing interest in solar, he outlined, has been helping towards decarbonising the grid, reducing emissions and achieving the aims outlined under COP 26.