On Wednesday, May 24th, 2017 the Minister with responsibility for the Public Service, Energy and Public Utilities Hon. Frank Mena and the Chairman of La Gracia Village Mr. Dario Menendez will inaugurate a Smart Solar off-grid rural electrification project at La Gracia Village in the Cayo District. The local installer is SESB in La Gracia village, they are based in the Cayo District.
In its efforts to provide access to electricity for all Belizeans, the Ministry identified rural electrification, using solar powered off-grid systems (mini/micro-grids), as a key component in the strategic plan.
This state-of-the-art system will provide electricity to more than 45 households and is designed with the capacity to increase supply to meet future demand. This first of its kind system in Belize will be monitored and operated remotely for efficiency and effectiveness.
The principal project objective is to help communities reach their full potential by providing opportunities for economic development. At the same time, a six to twelve-month study phase will allow the Ministry the opportunity to monitor the system administratively, socially, and technically.
The La Gracia project - implemented at a cost of approximately BZ$700,000 with support from many donor organisations including the Government of Switzerland, Government of the United Kingdom, Public Utilities Commission, and Government of Belize - will provide information on best practices for system design, implementation, and administration for extension to the rest of the country.
In May and June 2016 we welcomed several delegations from different project stakeholders. Representatives from cdw Stiftungsverbund in Germany visited the project site in La Gracia. Besides being a donor toward the project, cdw Stiftungsverbund also brings a vast background in the development of business models for rural electrification projects. They shared their valuable expertise and experiences with the project managers of ZENNA and the local installer SESB as well as with the Ministry of Energy.
Minister Hon. Frank Mena, CEO Dr. Peter Allen and Energy Director Mr. Ambrose Tillett of the Ministry of Public Service, Energy and Public Utilities met with the local installer SESB in La Gracia village to gain a first hand impression of the progress made.
La Gracia Village in the Cayo District is remote, so much so that you would say, it's off the grid. But, in this case, that would be a literal meaning because La Gracia is also off the electrical grid. And that's why the village - which is due east of Valley of Peace was designated as a pilot site for what's called a "Photo Voltaic Smart Grid". It's basically a solar power system but this one gets the Smart designation because of its ability to harness, store and distribute power to an entire community, making sure that they constantly get 120 volts in their homes - just like regular folks who are supplied by BEL.
The three quarter million dollar system was opened yesterday afternoon with all parties noting the change in the quality of life and education it will bring to the village:
H.E. Peter Hughes - British High Commissioner "This project will bring us sustainable supply of electricity to this village for the first time and well in advance of the grid when the grid will reach this area. Secondly, the electricity will be generated totally from a renewable source, the sun."
Hon. Frank Mena - Minister of Energy "Harnessing the power of the sun and using the energy as a spring board. A spring board for agriculture, a spring board for education, for health and of course for prosperity."
Hon. Rene Montero - Cayo Central Area Rep. "This 24 kilowatt system is therefore, exactly what your village needs to ensure that you can continue on the road of progress and prosperity."
H.E. Peter Hughes - British High Commissioner "It is my view that this project will change the lives of every man, woman and child in La Gracia. It will provide opportunities for the village to develop and grow and for every person to have the chance to expand their horizons and achieve goals they could not think of before. It is incredibly to think that basic human right of access to information with so many living in cities and large towns enjoy every day, will now be a right for every villager in La Gracia. Just think about what the project will do for the potential of this village and all of you in front of me here. You may not realize it but the futures will be better and also more challenging because access to electricity brings so many benefits."
There are about 45 households in La Gracia. The contractor SESB will monitor and calibrate the system remotely. The monitoring will also provide data for best practices on system design, implementation, and administration so that it can be implemented in other remote areas.
The system was funded to the tune of 700 thousand Belize dollars with support from the Swiss, British and Belize Governments, along with the PUC.
La Gracia Village receives first of its kind smart solar power system in Belize
In its effort to provide access to electricity for all Belizeans, the Government of Belize inaugurated a state-of-the-art Smart Solar off-grid rural electrification project in La Gracia Village in the Cayo District.