Those involved in energy management or who follow the media
are aware solar PV prices are dropping steadily, and inverter technology is improving rapidly. The USVI has a near perfect climate with an abundance of sunlight making this an excellent option. The ever-increasing price of electricity has many in the territory turning to PV for relief.
The very high cost of electricity coupled with the falling prices of PV, results in a return on investment so short that the decision practically makes itself. The common goal is to drive the bill as close to zero as possible, and most PV purveyor’s size their systems based on past utility bills.
While this approach works, it overlooks the very important aspect of “conservation first.” The homeowner or business should be a partner in the process. Evaluating a customer’s energy consumption should be the first step in any conscientious solar PV installer’s site visit. Designing a system that simply supports wasteful habits only benefits the seller of the PV equipment, not the home or business owner.
With renewable energy systems, every dollar spent replacing inefficient appliances, air conditioning, lighting, pool pumps, etc. will save $3 to $5 in the cost of the renewable energy system to run that equipment. Energy conservation is crucial and will really pay off when considering the design of any renewable energy system.
Governor John P. deJongh Jr. has set an aggressive goal of reducing fossil fuel consumption 60% by 2025. Where conservation is important in residential systems, it is even more critical in commercial and government buildings. Every person on these islands has visited government offices and observed employees in heavy sweaters and parkas, because inefficient/old air conditioning systems are blasting away trying to reach a comfortable level or even worse to control mold.
Although solar PV panels should be installed on every USVI school and government office, each renewable energy project must begin with a sincere and thorough conservation effort. Inefficient lighting and air conditioning account for 40-60% of energy consumption!
The ‘$3 to $5 reduction vs. $1 saved’ should be remembered, especially where both the money spent and saved will come from the taxpayers. And the available 15 megawatts (10 STT/STJ and 5 STX) of net metering available through WAPA will quickly be allocated at the rate renewable energy permits are being sought. If every renewable energy system installed is preceded by a serious conservation effort, the 15MW will be available to far more homes and businesses across the territory.
Marccus Bodio, St. Thomas
Conservation Needed Before Renewable Energy
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.