Pushing towards its 2030 target for Montserrat to be more self reliant for its power production, the Department of Energy initiative to install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems at local clinics has been completed.
Funded under the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) 10th Project Cycle, 11 residents were trained in how to install and maintain the systems which now sit atop the Salem and St Peters Health Centres and the Dental Unit in St. Johns.
This milestone is in keeping with the Government of Montserrat Energy Policy to ensure that by 2030, Montserrat has “Reliable, low-cost, sustainable provision of energy services matched to the societal and development needs of the island.”
According to Dr. Wayne Archibald of Green Solutions International based in St. Kitts, the solar systems have the capacity to power the three buildings 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The health centres have 5kW battery systems to store the energy, while the dental clinic has 8kW battery to ensure continuity of operations especially during times when sensitive dental services are being delivered.
Dr. Archibald stated that 11 trainees (eight men and three women) began the online training in February 2023. Participants are from the government’s electrical unit and the private sector learned how to safely install, design and maintain the solar PV systems. Some will also continue on to system inspection certification and others additional maintenance qualifications.
The consultant said Montserrat as with every Caribbean island, needs a local workforce to maintain these systems to be able to handle issues if anything goes wrong.
Following the completion of training, the students will obtain the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioner (NABCEP) certification in the installation, inspection and maintenance of Solar PV systems.
“As Montserrat progresses in its work to become energy efficient, there is tremendous benefit in building capacity in a pool of individuals with the necessary knowledge, skill and credibility to safely and efficiently install and commission systems for businesses and individuals across the island.”
“The Consultants, Green Solutions International SKI, had the vision to build a company that provides both training in certification and installation of Solar PV systems and the BNTF with assistance from CDB is delighted to have contracted them to provide this welcomed support to Montserrat’s Green Energy Initiatives,” the Department of Energy stated on its website.
Students were able to gain the practical experience necessary by working to install the new systems at the clinics. Dr. Archibald added that every two years they will need to do continuing education to ensure that they stay current with new developments in the industry. He plans to continue engaging with the trainees to support their learning. The consultant also identified Montserrat Community College as a place where a local training programme can be mounted to ensure more people learn how to set up and maintain solar PV before moving on to be NABSEP certified, which will open additional economic opportunities for residents.
He added that the government must incentivize people to go to solar. He called the Lookout solar PV farm “very impressive” noting its ability to power the entire island for half an hour. The 1MW solar plant can power the Lookout community, the Glendon Hospital and DMCA in case of a power outage.
‘We believe our islands, especially the smaller ones can be 100% energy independent. Montserrat is one of the smaller islands but you peak at 1.8MW and you have a 1MW solar plant. You build another 1MW solar plant and you are basically at the 100% energy independence,” Dr. Archibald said in a ZJB Radio Montserrat interview.
Green Solutions International, the consultant said is focused on workforce development to provide economic opportunity for Caribbean people and especially women. He praised Taiyi West who led on the Montserrat training, who is NABSEP certified and who also has level one training in electric vehicles.
“We can control our destiny. We don’t have to look outside the region,” Dr. Archibald stated.
BNTF Project Manage Jennifer Meade, said under the BNTF 10 this is the first in three projects to be executed. The second will be the Salem School refurbishment later this year.
The BNTF programmes, which are 95% funded by the Caribbean Development Bank support a socially inclusive development process that empowers the poor and vulnerable, and supports institutional development.