There is light at last at the end of the proverbial tunnel for Canadian-based energy firm Deltro Group Ltd, which has promised “much cheaper” energy than what Barbadians were paying to Barbados Light & Power.
A company spokesman today revealed that after a year of waiting, the Town & Country Planning Department had finally given the go-ahead for construction of its US$40 million solar panel manufacturing facility and 10-megawatts solar farm.
However, a whopping $4 million in import duties on the manufacturing line is standing in the way of the commencement date of construction of those facilities.
“We still have some I’s to dot and T’s to cross, but the fact that our plan has been signed off on by the Chief Town Planner is a significant achievement,” Chief Financial Officer Dean Del Mastro told journalists at a news conference at the Kendal Hill, Christ Church site for the proposed manufacturing facility.
“The Ministry of Finance had indicated to us there were approximately $4 million in tariffs that were applied, which everyone agrees is not actually applicable to the line. But there is a process in order to have those tariffs removed,” he said, pointing out that planning permission first had to be secured before removal of the tariffs could be considered.
Del Mastro said the company had taken “a leap of faith” last August when it shipped to Barbados, the manufacturing line, which has been at the Bridgetown Port since.
He said he was “not aware of any government that charged a capital investment tax or corporate surtax on manufacturing equipment, especially when it is a sector that is challenged”.
As he did last July, the company executive blamed the delay in securing planning permission and the tax waiver for holding back the project, and he promised once the tax exemption was granted construction of the manufacturing facility would begin.
“We are prepared to go now. We are ready to make the investments now. We would like to have the plant operating today, but there are processes here that we respect and Government is working through those processes,” Del Mastro said, while insisting the company was not seeking any incentives from Government.
He said after setting up the approximately US$20 million manufacturing plant, the plan was to establish the approximately US$20 million solar farm on about 70 acres of land in Waterford Plantation, St Michael.
He added that while the approval for the solar farm was for a 10-megawatt grid-tied system with an energy storage component, it was the company’s intention to double the capacity over time.
The Deltro spokesman said about half the investment had already been made in the manufacturing plant through the purchase of the approximately 50,000 square feet of land, including a building and the over 300 feet of manufacturing line from Trans-Tech Inc.
While refusing to give details, Del Mastro said several countries had already been lining up to purchase solar panels, which he said should rake in significant foreign exchange for Barbados.
Deltro said Barbados is estimated to earn US$50 million in the first year, with revenue projections of up to US$200 million within five years, he pledged.
“There is concern about the foreign exchange balance. We will sell all of our goods in US dollars and pay our workers in Barbados dollars. We are a Barbados company so those sales will register and add to the gross domestic product of Barbados,” he said.
Leading local stakeholders and interest groups, including Williams Industries Chairman Ralph Bizzy Williams have objected to the project, with Williams telling Barbados TODAY last August that if Deltro were granted permission it would be an unjust act against local alternative energy entrepreneurs, whose efforts at getting similar treatment continued to fail.