The Barbados Water Authority (BWA) is implementing a $3.5 million renewable energy project with the help of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Project Engineer Nathan Hart told reporters gathered at the BWA’s Pine headquarters this morning that the aim of the project was not only to reduce the operational costs of the BWA, but also to make this water-scarce country more resilient in the face of rapid climate change.
While making reference to the recent devastation caused by hurricanes in neighbouring Dominica and Barbuda, Hart said the BWA would be increasing its reliance on renewable energy to power its grids so that pumps could be accessible even in times of natural disasters.
This will be done by way of a 500-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) system, which is to be erected at the Bowmanston Pumping Station in St John.
“We recognize that you could have as much PV, but if it is you are not able to pump water when the grid is down what benefit is renewable energy to a country? he asked, adding that the BWA was moving towards “an ever evolving way to install PV by putting battery management so that in the event . . . . the grid is down we should be able at the BWA, by the use of renewable energy, to pump water to our citizens.
“It only takes one natural disaster to give us a wake-up call,” the engineer reminded, adding that “we have seen what happened in Dominica, we have seen what happened in Barbuda [and] we have to learn from these [experiences] and use this project from the UAE to build this resilience so that we can demonstrate to the Caribbean what a utility company can do to be able to pump water when the grid is down”.
Hart also said the BWA would be aiming to reduce its energy bill from $1.8 million monthly but did not say by how much, though estimating that the pumping station’s annual operational costs should drop by about $500, 000 and that the project should redound to $1 million in overall savings per year.
Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick, who has been seeking to forge a sustainable relationship between Barbados and the Arabs, welcomed the project, saying the BWA was the largest consumer of energy on the island.
“It [the BWA/UAE project] allows for a savings in regard to our electricity costs,” said Estwick, adding that “it [also] allows for a resilience in the capacity of the Barbados Water Authority to continue to provide its services as is its mandate when oil prices fluctuate on the high side and we cannot find those funds”.
Estwick also reiterated plans for the construction of two desalination plants to tackle the country’s water scarcity.
The minister also disclosed that the BWA would be introducing aquifer rechargers in an attempt to develop and modernize wastewater management systems.
“I can no longer and this country can no longer and management can no longer in its future plans depend on rainfall for its portable water supply in this country Barbados,” the minister said, while questioning: “If we don’t start to put these systems in place and extracting 99 plus per cent of all the water in aquifers based on rainfall; where are we going to get the water from?”
Estwick also indicated that his ministry was moving aggressively to rebuild the island’s “archaic and failing” sewage systems, amid recurring problems along the south coast in particular.
“We are now facing infrastructural issues and future capacity issues and one of the things for us going forward is to modernize our waste water and waste systems development,” he said.