With oil prices continuing to rise and adversely impacting the cost of fuel-generated electricity, local alternative energy companies are reporting that more Barbadians are seeking energy efficient solutions to reduce their light bills.
Some are switching to more modern and fuel-efficient lighting in and around their homes, while others are going all the way and installing solar electricity systems to supplement their normal electricity supply.
One product that is growing in popularity is Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting. Sales representative with LED Illumination Inc. Anthony Niles said Barbadians were recognizing the benefits of this type of lighting.
“More residential customers are purchasing our indoor lights, while commercial customers tend to gravitate more towards exterior lighting and floodlights. We have found that if your light bill was $100 a month, if you change 75 per cent of your indoor bulbs to LED, that bill can come down to $60,” he said.
T’Amor Skeete of Caribbean LED Lighting, which manufactures its lights in Barbados, noted that some people were initially a bit apprehensive about purchasing LED lights as they were more costly than their conventional counterparts.
“However, while you may pay more initially, you will save money eventually because, unlike incandescent bulbs, these bulbs do not generate as much heat, they last longer, and do not contain dangerous gases like mercury or hazardous materials like lead. We also make them using recyclable materials,” Skeete said.
LED lights can last between ten and 15 years, and are up to 80 per cent more efficient than fluorescent lights, which have also gained in popularity in recent years as a more energy efficient alternative. Studies have also shown that fluorescent bulbs convert 95 per cent of their energy to heat and only five per cent to light, whereas the figures are reversed with LED lights.
Skeete said a venture last year when Caribbean LED Lighting staged a bulb giveaway in collaboration with the Enterprise Growth Fund was successful in raising awareness among the Barbadian public of the benefits of these products.
Meanwhile, Zarita Browne of Caribbean Lighting Solutions reported a good response to her company’s solar powered lights, which can be used both inside and outside, and can be programmed with motion or daylight sensors.
“We also sell LED lights and find that Barbadians have responded well to them,” she said.
Solar electricity generators are also becoming more popular at local homes and businesses. A solar panel mounted on the roof or elsewhere on the building converts sunlight to direct current (DC), then an inverter converts direct current to alternating current (AC), which is what the customer needs to run an electrical system. With these systems, the customer remains a part of the national electricity grid, so they can both pull electricity from this source and, at the same time, send electricity created via their solar generating system back to the national grid.
A representative from Solar Watt Systems, which has been in the industry since 1985, said more Barbadians were inquiring about products for their homes, particularly over the past year when global oil prices were increasing.
He said demand had slowed since oil prices had gone down, but he encouraged those who have already purchased solar systems to keep them running, as oil prices may very well increase again.
Okera Hill of Innogen said her company had 60 per cent of the local solar energy market at present, but business was slowing down since Government removed the tax benefits associated with green technology.
However, “some of our customers have been selling electricity to the Barbados Light and Power Company, and we are also seeking to expand across the region, particularly in the Eastern Caribbean where we have some 500 installations across those islands”.