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Power plant developers assure environment will be protected

by Barbados Today
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The developers of the largest hybrid power plant in Barbados and the region have assured measures are being implemented to prevent and mitigate any negative impacts on the environment and surrounding communities during the construction and operation of the facility.

HDF Energy and RUBIS are developing Renewstable Barbados, a 50 MW solar generation facility in St Philip with green hydrogen and lithium-ion battery storage that will provide firm and clean electricity to the grid.

During the first town hall meeting on the project held at the Princess Margaret Secondary School on Wednesday, a discussion was held to inform residents about the results of the first Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) conducted by Stantec Caribbean.

The ESIA covered several aspects of the construction process, including the quantitative risk, drainage, social impact, and agriculture impact assessments, as well as an acoustic modelling study.

Overall, the extensive survey reinforced the positive aspects of the proposed plant. In generating clean green power using solar and hydrogen processes it will generate gaseous emissions that are non-polluting and there will be low noise pollution to surrounding communities. Additionally, the large-scale sheep farm that is part of the project will serve not only as a grazing site but as a grass harvesting one as well.

However, some residents expressed concerns about the environmental impact of the project which will take up approximately 183 acres of land.

In response, sociologist Janice Cumberbatch, who was a part of the ESIA study, said monitoring of operations at the site will be an ongoing process that will include not only independent contractors but agents from state entities as well.

“The way this works is that when the recommendations are made and the company starts construction or operations, they are going to be required to implement measures and then the regulatory agencies such as the Environmental Protection Department, or the Ministry of Health, or the Ministry of Energy, will be required – as part of what you will see in the EIA document – to monitor. They will be required to view the reports that the company will prepare in terms of how they are operating,” she explained.

“Another thing that is frequently required and has been recommended as part of my [contribution] to the report is that there will be a stakeholder engagement process. It has been recommended that there be a stakeholder liaison…, to put it bluntly. That person is expected to slam tar on a regular basis.”

The liaison between the project and the community as well as agents from the regulatory agencies will be required to be in the surrounding communities on a regular basis to oversee any existing or potential issues due to the construction or operation processes.

Vector control – the process of limiting the transmission of pathogens and diseases within a given environment – was also a concern for people living in the area, given the proposed sheep husbandry operations that will take place around the installed solar panels.

HDF Project Manager Jacqueline Beckles assured residents that agriculture consultants were currently working on several processes aimed at restricting the spread of any harmful vectors from the site.

“The planning and development department actually is very interested in vector control, so one of the things we specifically commented on for them was how we would go about ensuring that things like rats and rodents won’t accumulate onsite.

“During the design process, the exact procedures have to be laid out, so the intention from the very beginning – the agriculture consultants are working on that right now – is to determine what those processes need to be in order to ensure that vectors are not propagated on site.”

She also added that though the plant will use 65 cubic metres of water daily, half of that will be recycled throughout the plant.

“The process of generating hydrogen requires pure water, so whatever comes into the system has to be purified with the water treatment facility before it goes into the electrolyzers. When that treatment process happens, half of it is discharged and that half is put into a holding pond,” Beckles explained.

“We test it to make sure to find out what the mineral content will be, and once we are okay that it can be reused, it will go towards things like irrigation, panel washdown – because, of course, the panels have to be kept clean –, it will go towards the farm and cleaning the farm and maintaining the site in a general way. You can actually say half the water that we are using in the process is reused.”

The Renewstable Barbados project is under joint development by HDF Energy and Rubis. (SB)

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