The proposed construction of a multi-million dollar Canadian-owned solar farm on lands at Waterford Plantation, St Michael is getting some serious heat from leading local stakeholders and interest groups, including Williams Industries Chairman Ralph Bizzy Williams.
Canadian energy company Deltro Group has applied for planning permission to build a 20 megawatt solar farm on 70 acres of land which it intends to lease from the State.
Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins confirmed to Barbados TODAY Wednesday afternoon that the company had applied for permission to establish the project, but that no decision had yet been issued.
“That [the application] is still being processed. We had advised that a public meeting be held [by the company] last week. No decision [for planning permission] has yet been issued,” Cummins said.
However, the likelihood of such a project being built by a foreign company is not sitting well with Williams, and the prominent businessman and renewable energy entrepreneur is already crying foul. Fearing that permission will be granted to Deltro, a fired up Williams is warning that any such decision would be an unjust act against local alternative energy entrepreneurs, whose efforts at getting similar treatment continued to fail.
“The idea of bringing foreigners in to build photovoltaic and alternative energy [projects] . . . makes no sense. It is very, very short-term. What it does . . . it means that instead of sending foreign exchange overseas to pay for oil, we will be sending it overseas to pay dividends on the profits made by the foreign companies. So we’re no better off,” the Executive Chairman of Williams Industries added.
He reiterated his belief that at least 60 per cent of all the alternative energy production should be owned by Barbadians, or Barbadian-owned companies.
“What I would question is how come Deltro can get to lease Government land that belong to the taxpayers of Barbados to build a solar farm, and get permission to do it on land that was earmarked as a botanical garden for the people of Barbados, when we [Williams Industries] have land that we work hard and paid for, and applied for permission to put a solar farm on it and can’t get permission,” he argued.
He claimed that there were Barbadians companies willing to invest but could not get permission, or had to wait for “extremely” long periods for approval. “I want to know why,” he stressed. The proposed solar farm is also facing resistance from the Barbados Renewable Energy Association [BREA], although its Executive Director Clyde Griffith has said he did not expect the project to materialize. Griffith told Barbados TODAY Wednesday evening that Barbados Light & Power had already written off any possibility of being able to accommodate an additional 20 megawatt on its grid. “The Light & Power said ‘no’ to that [ 20 megawatt plant]. I am not going to go against what the engineering views are . . . I am not going to put BREA in that position to support a company which comes and says it wants to build a 20 megawatt solar farm,” Griffith said. The BREA boss also told Barbados TODAY that a second foreign company had indicated to his organization that it was interested in setting another 20 megawatt solar plant. “If Light & Power says no, it can’t accommodate a 20 megawatt farm, how yuh going have two? They have to know,” he emphasized. Griffith also revealed that Deltro had expressed an interest in becoming a member of BREA, an issue which he said would be discussed at his board meeting on Friday.
When DELTRO Group Ltd announced last December that it would set up a $26 million solar manufacturing plant on the island, including a solar farm to produce electricity, it pledged “much cheaper” energy than what Barbadians were paying to Barbados Light & Power.
The Canadian energy firm had promised that the line would begin operating no later than April of this year, however, Chief Financial Officer Dean Del Mastro told Barbados TODAY last week that unnamed frustrations had led to a delay.
He also said the company was in talks with Town & Country Planning and Minister of International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss in an effort to get the project moving.