A dozen people, primarily electric vehicle drivers and green energy enthusiasts, enjoyed a Saturday drive, winding through the hillsides of St. Thomas in their bio-friendly autos during the annual Earth Day Electric Vehicle Rally.
Representatives of Solarize St. Thomas, Silver Sun Solar, Drive Green VI, and the Virgin Islands Energy Office were all on hand to discuss with other attendees the new programs and initiatives aimed to foster the demand for environmentally friendly, sustainable, clean energy.
Solarize St. Thomas is a community-based group-purchasing program for clean-energy technologies that helps residents save on the cost of renewable energy systems by leveraging the power of group purchasing, Virgin Islands Energy Office Kyle Fleming said.
“You are pooling the projects together so that way, instead of ordering 10 panels, you are ordering 100 panels, and likely the wholesaler you are purchasing from will give you a substantial discount of the bulk order, so that way you can pass on the savings to the individual clients,” Fleming said.
The public-private coalition consists of several businesses and organizations that each provide residents with valuable savings and incentives: Virgin Islands Energy Office, the University of the Virgin Islands Caribbean Green Technology Center, Rotary Club of St. Thomas East ECO, Environmental Association of St. Thomas-St. John, Virgin Islands Conservation Society, VI Electric Vehicle Assoc.-North, and Solar Crowdsource.
Currently, 75 applicants have signed up for the program Fleming said.
“I think the idea is that if we can show success here, that will expand to the broader region, like St. Croix … The needs are the same across the islands, so we are hoping to provide those cost-savings for people that are looking,” Fleming said.
Rebates are also offered through the energy office that Fleming said can be as much as $5,000.
An electric vehicle guide outlined to attendees the many vehicles available, but the Nissan LEAF was most represented at the rally.
“It’s the perfect island car,” said Juston Workman, director of operations for Drive Green VI.
Workman said the cars have a range of 150 miles on a single charge, use regenerative braking, and can access 10 public charging ports throughout St. Thomas and a handful of public charging ports on St. Croix. On St. John home charging is the only option.
The rally also highlighted programs available for residents who would like to understand their energy consumption.
The Real-Time Energy Monitoring Program is the V.I. Energy Office’s latest initiative and provides all residents with the opportunity to make sense of their current utility bill.
The program is “putting the power back in your hands.” Fleming said applicants will receive free installation of an energy monitor, which connects to the resident’s electric meter, displaying the resident’s energy usage in real-time.
“The entire idea of rallies like this is to really push towards and grow the idea of green energy here in the Virgin Islands, one island at a time,” Fleming said.