GUYANA: ENERGY: Why not solar energy? – Opinion

Solar Panels

April 7, 2022 –

Renewable or clean energy, of which there are various forms, is not only the future, but it is what will allow generations to come to dwell on a livable planet; the science on this is indisputable. Energy which is generated by the sun, wind, water, and to a lesser extent biomass is described as renewable. In other words, it is derived from natural processes that are replenishable ad infinitum and at a faster rate than which it can be consumed.

Entreaties for a switch to clean energy date back decades, but now abound as the world continues to heat up, lurching from crisis to crisis, most if not all of which can be traced to the overuse of fossil fuels. Governments mostly dodged the calls, proffering the claim that renewable energy was too expensive – and it was. Over the years, however, the technology has improved to the point where not employing renewable energy makes no sense.

MEXICO – World’s Largest Solar Farm

Last month – Mexico announced the intent to create, in its capital, what would be the world’s largest solar farm to date. The 18-megawatt, US$19.9 million project, which is expected to come to fruition later this year, involves covering the roof of the Central de Abasto market with solar panels that will power not only its 10,000-odd businesses (stalls), but also thousands of nearby homes. Central de Abasto market, a wholesale centre touted as one of the largest markets in the world, sits on 810 acres.

Mexico’s state-run Comisión Federal de Elec-tricidad (Federal Electricity Commission) has designed and will operate the market solar installation in a surprising turnabout from a government that had previously placed much importance on fossil fuels. With a production figure of 1.9 million barrels a day in 2020, Mexico is listed among the largest oil producers in the world; the top importer of Mexican heavy crude oil is the USA. However, apart from being appallingly destructive to the environment, fossil fuels are also finite. This project, along with another in the pipeline that could be completed in the next six years, is a sure sign that Mexico is investing in posterity.

Not all renewable energy is equal

It is important to note here though that not all renewable energy is equal and cognisance has to be taken of the environment where it will be employed prior to deciding on which source is best suited. By far the most renewable and greenest energy source, solar power involves using the sun. Scientists believe that enough energy to power the entire planet reaches the earth’s surface from the sun in a single hour. The technology to safely and affordably harness it has already been developed.

As the name suggests, wind energy requires wind to work. Therefore, wind farms on land need to be sited on hills or wide open fields. Many are placed offshore as well, since they tend to be noisy.

Hydroelectric power is similar in that a prerequisite is fast moving water in rivers or from waterfalls to spin the turbine blades. Dams are used to divert water sources and the larger the endeavour, the bigger the dam. Furthermore, if the water source identified is in forested terrain, the forest would have to be cleared and an access road built in order to get the necessary equipment to the site; the road would thereafter need to be maintained. In Guyana we are already familiar with this type of undertaking. Though perhaps the better word in the local circumstances would be debacle.

GUYANA: The Amaila Falls Hydropower Project

The Amaila Falls Hydropower Project, which had been touted by then president Bharrat Jagdeo as the answer to the country’s electricity woes, was mired in incertitude from the get go. The Amaila Falls flow from the Kuribrong River, which is a tributary of the Potaro River in Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni), and getting to it was an issue. The contract to build an access road had been awarded in 2010 to the then unknown, but now infamous Fip Motilall and later terminated in 2012 after he missed several deadlines. The cost to complete that project in 2014 was almost triple the original US$15.4 million.

Last year, the Irfaan Ali administration, in which Mr Jagdeo is vice-president, announced that the 165 megawatts Amaila Falls Hydropower Project was back on the table with the hope of a start date this year and completion at the end of 2025. It is expected to cost close to US$1 billion, initially. If all goes as planned it will form part of Guyana’s hybrid power source that will also include the use of wind and solar as well as fossil fuel.

To be clear, a hydropower project of this size, while renewable, cannot be deemed green. The reason being that it will undoubtedly have a massive negative impact on the environment. More trees will be cut down, other forest fauna will be damaged or completely destroyed and the damming of the river will affect the habitats of local animals. To say that we could be looking at the butterfly effect here is not an overstatement. Isn’t solar power a much better option?

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  • brandli62  On 04/08/2022 at 6:02 am

    I could not agree more with the analysis. The GoG should promote solar panels for residential and commercial buildings throughout the nation. Home owners should get loans at 0% interest rates to finance installation and purchase of storage batteries. The loans should be repaid within 10 years.

  • JOan SEymour  On 04/09/2022 at 6:00 pm

    On the basis of cost alone, US$1billion, the Amaila Falls project should be a non starter. Then having to divert water from another river should a no=no.

  • Bernard  On 04/09/2022 at 6:36 pm

    Peel your eyes open, Guyanese.

    I don’t trust the Ali-Jagdeo government with the management of our previous forest and other natural resources.

    They are an unmitigated disaster. The have given the Chinese unfettered access to chopping down our hardwood forest to have them shipping it out to China.

    What other countries do that? God help us!

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