Clean energy / energy costs

Posted By: mratzburg

Clean energy / energy costs - 04/06/11 11:19 PM


As I recent visitor to Caye Caulker, I was struck by nice sunlight each day and that diesel generators seem to supply the island with power. I noticed a few houses with solar panels but was left wondering

1. What are the costs of electricity on Caye Caulker?
2. Does the power company allow grid-tie solar systems (where you link the solar panels into the power grid - supplying power to the grid if you do not use all of it on-site.)

In Utila, Honduras, the Utila power company maintains a monopoly and will not allow grid tie systems. They ensure high prices and have unreliable services. Curious to learn more about Caye Caulker.

Posted By: Dane

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 04/07/11 01:25 AM

They are a Canadian company and are trying their first grid tie on the mainland.
Electric costs about US$.22 KW/Hr
Demand away from the center for solar is large. Thee are 20+ solar homes in the South alone
Posted By: ron

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 04/07/11 04:07 AM

I have a house on the north island and have both solar and wind. Got more than I can use but even when the power comes north won't be able to sell to the power company. But it also doesn't cost me so I guess I'm ahead by not having to pay.
Posted By: Dane

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 04/07/11 02:10 PM

I am interested in selling power to the unserved markets with 5-20KW solar/wind systems that sit near clusters of clients and sell 110v.
We have clients but the school takes up all my time.
Posted By: kmsqrd

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 05/17/11 06:40 PM

This is a fantastic post. I was wondering if those who are able could "donate" for lack of a better word, to those who need it? Maybe a barter situation? Is there local regulations on running electric from one home or business to another?
Posted By: JdeVerteuil

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 05/19/11 10:56 AM

Actually it would be more feasable to start an Electrci Co-Op. Combine resources and and when you pay off the bills at the end of the year everyone gets a refund of a percentage of the moneys remaining.
The gentleman that metioned he had excess electric production could have saved cost on intial install if North Caye Caulker land owners connected their own mini grid.
Posted By: ron

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 05/19/11 12:11 PM

Have you spent any time researching laws in Belize regarding electricity and the formation of a cooperative. Most of the people who are NOW living on the North island have power for there own needs. More power is for expansion. How much will you pay to put up the poles necessary to connect all the houses that are on the North island. They stretch the entire length of the island. How do I save when I'd have to build a grid that BEL doesn't seem to think is economically feasible?
Posted By: JdeVerteuil

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 05/20/11 05:49 AM

The savings are not immediate as you know, the grid is from your house to your neighbors using buried cables (less damage during hurricanes).
As the North Island grows your energy production grid grows as well. Using the same calculations that you did when you built your system per house or commercial property. Here is the benefit, the houses that are vacation homes still connect into the grid and continuously produce for the grid. Battery backup systems can be connected as well so as to provide power during the night.
In the future fuel and energy cost will increase (energy cost in the US is projected to double in five years) this will raise your .22/Kw to .44/Kw. Solar panals can produce 300w at this time, in five years they are projected to produce 1kw/ panel. The cost of a solar/ wind power system is not the equipment but the install. The money that a community pools together to install renewable systems will significantly benefit the community in the next 5-10 years.
I am still learning more about these systems as is anyone in this business, which I am not. I have not looked into the laws of Belize in regards to coops, but will do so during my next visit.
I believe that it can be done but would require a group of interested parties to sit down and discuss appropriate courses of action.
Posted By: ron

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 05/20/11 11:39 AM

The plan is to have above ground poles. If you look on the north island you will see the first one. Belizean law gives the right to only BEL to distribute power. So you need to start your research with the reality of what can be done and what is in the works, telling people who have property and those who live on the north island what to do is typical for people with little experience in the realities of living on the North island. The install costs were small in comparision to the costs for the equipment. My turbine cost about $10,000 US, the batteries another $5,000us and the solar panel about $3,000us. To install the system was to dig 5 holes for the anchors and a bunch of concrete and rebar. So how do you figure the install is costly?
Posted By: JdeVerteuil

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 05/31/11 02:27 PM

You spent close to $25k USD to complete your system. You are producing more than enough electricity for your house, as you stated earlier. If we were neighbors and we combined our efforts your cost is cut by about 40%. We use each others solar and a joint wind turbine to provide power and charge our system. I would have to install solar panels as well hence the 40% savings and not 50%.
BEL is the only authorized company in Belize to SELL electricity. We are not, we are sharing a resource that you and I have installed.
As far as being in NCC you are correct, but this is not an NCC specific issue. This is a micro grid system that we are researching here in Afganistan.
Posted By: Dane

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 05/31/11 09:50 PM

Our plan for a sharing network involves our adding 5-10 KW of panels to the mix. We would be the power company and add that much power during the day. At night we would only have about 10 KW/hr of storage.During the day we charge everybody to full and buy any extra power out there. At night the clients would use their own batteries they already have to run their homes or sell power if they are not at home. The client homes are often empty in the off season. This arrangement gives the most flexibility.You can include homes with or without their own systems and do not need to coordinate the construction,operation,or expansion of you and your neighbors systems.As we add wind we will have more power to sell at night. It is very windy at night on CC.
Each client pays a hookup fee equal to the underground wire cost and a standard electric company power meter.Folks seem OK with BZ$1/KW/hr since they sell and buy at the same price minus 10 cents.
I am finding panels on Ebay for US$2/watt and we built a small one at the high school for US 50 cents/watt
Posted By: JdeVerteuil

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 06/01/11 07:21 AM

Good plan except as Ron pointed out, BEL is the only company authorized to sell electricity in Belize. Ron is correct in that a legal check is needed to determine your limits. As far as sharing resources there is no law against such a thing. Charging people for maintenance up keep is not illegal either. Who gets charged what is determined by the group.
Wind turbines are an excellent way to produce power on the coastal area of Belize. Using a hybrid system, where you use multiple energy production systems, is a must to maximize your productivity.
The WES 18, I am not a salesman, is viable in NCC as it is easy to setup and can be taken down prior to a Hurricane. It produces 80kw and has a program that will start a diesel generator when power production drops.
Ron also spoke about intial cost and as you can see it is expensive, but the long range savings is well worth the investment.
Posted By: Dane

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 06/01/11 05:39 PM

I got the idea from BEL.Not a competitive issue. They don't supply us and don't plan to do so.Their charter requires that they supply power to all so you are taking a problem off their plate.
Wind turbines have a less impressive record of power production on Caye Caulker. They need a tower that holds well in soft sand $$$$.Taking even a small one down in a hurricane proved so daunting that NONE of them were taken down in the last one, even the tiniest. All were ruined. One burned out when the overspeed protecter was overcome by the wind. The others blew down.
You are very busy at that time and since it blows 50+ nearly every year on the caye, you don't really start to lower it until it is blowing more than that.
Our crews turned not be available at that time esp. in a driving rain in the night.They were dealing with their families and windows.
Wind looks good on paper and i would prefer it.
At $2/watt solar proved much cheaper when when you add up the amps in the real world. I am a wind powered guy but the numbers and experience we have gotten running a solar powered develoopment for twenty years on CC says solar wins.Wind is just handy at night but at a higher cost and shorter life cycle.
Posted By: ron

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 06/02/11 12:20 AM

I have a different problem than Dane has. I have a Whisper 500 set 42' high on a 5' steel pipe. It's been up in probably 60 mph wind, didn't start to take it down until the wind was to high. After that wind passed we took it down for the season. I don't stay down there all year as Dane does. So this year I'll come down next week and take the turbine down and put it away until I come down in November. Its rated to withstand winds up to 85mph. The bigger Bergey turbines will take 180 mph winds, but they are really expensive. The smaller units that are found in CC just don't withstand the winds. I'd be very interested to see how a large turbine designed to handle the hurricane winds would do. We do have great wind capacity and if you don't have to worry that it will blow apart the work. Most people in CC worry about boarding up their houses not their wind turbine. I guess the question is how do you get wind power to use like the utility's generators. I think at the local scale that you find in CC the solar development works best but if you could do the island as a utility it might also work on a larger scale.
Posted By: Dane

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 06/02/11 04:34 PM

Another problem we had with wind was scalability. When we began in 1988 wind was a lot cheaper per watt and that benefit increased as you went up in turbine size.The big turbines cost so much as an initial investment that those deals died. It was easier for everyone to buy a few panels each year until they had enough.
The main problem with networking all the standalone set ups was social.If you had enough power you were shy of paying an expensive wire to join the network. You didn't really need it .The most interested folks were those with no building. They liked the idea and planned to join at some later time when they got the house built, if you got the system running by then (at your expense)
About half of the turbines were taken at some point and just never went back up.
Another new problem was a robbery of panels one night when everyone was gone from the area last sept.
Posted By: ron

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 06/02/11 11:40 PM

Definitely the initial investment is very high for wind, much lower for solar. You can build a little at a time. Getting people to connect with each other has an initial cost as well which most who have solar don't want to spend if they don't have too. Most on the north island have solved their own power supple that works for them. No one is much interested in hooking up to the grid when it comes. People without houses want it right away. Maybe that would get them to build but that's not guaranteed either. It would seem that some sort of coop would be great suppling environmentally appropriate power. With smart meters you could buy and sell like possibly in many other places. Just need a benefactor for the couple million to start the project. Dane's school is looking for that same benefactor. They are hard to find these days.
Posted By: JdeVerteuil

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 06/04/11 11:33 AM

What school do you run Dane?

Posted By: Dane

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 06/04/11 02:02 PM

THE Ocean Academy High School on CC
Posted By: JdeVerteuil

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 06/20/11 06:44 AM

Sorry about the lull in conversation, been traveling and working.
I think we have a good foundation to begin discussions, but as Ron pointed out the initial cost could be substantial. There are ways to fund such a project through grants. Let me do some research and see if I can find a grantor that is interested in funding a site that is residential in nature. Dane as far as your school there are organizations that would fund a project for that site as well. I also recall you mentioning your students building your last solar panal, education grants are abundant for renewable energy.
Posted By: Diane Campbell

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 06/20/11 03:26 PM

A timely and interesting thread to be sure.

One comment/correction of assumption - Future Ex-Pat in an earlier post proposes underground power lines, and says that there would be less damage in a hurricane as a result.

I've tried to get neighborhood power cables run underground and have been told by BEL that they absolutely will not do it - and the reason has to do with hurricanes - I can't remember the actual construction, maintenance issues, but they were adamant about it and somehow what they said made sense at the time.

Posted By: JdeVerteuil

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 06/22/11 04:19 PM

BEL probably told you that they are running AC cables. The frequency of AC (Alternating Current) cause a bit of heat, if they bury the cables it is best to have a metal sheild to protect it from damage. This will cause the heat to be isolated around the cable and you will lose power. You can run this system for short distances, like CC, but not over long distances.
The cables I was suggesting are DC (Direct Current). Wind and solar generators produce DC power so burying these cables is no real issue. Then each home would have an inverter, something they will have to have anyways, at the connection to their home.

BEL also could have been concerned about the water table as well, but that is why you have the metal outer layer to protect it.

All and all I think Ron will have his own large island for quite awhile. smile at least until I get there.

Dane, How much do you need for the solar panels on the school?
Posted By: Dane

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 06/22/11 07:44 PM

The problem with DC is line losses over even short distances. This is why the whole world is wired AC except a few solar homes on their own...

To supply the whole school we need about 3K gridtie, which would cost about $10K to install.
With 1K for $3500 we could run the solar truck and charge at the school.
Notice BEL gave it up in Belize?
During these little splits may be a good time to get permission to sell outside the monopol.y
Posted By: Caye Maker

Re: Clean energy / energy costs - 06/23/11 10:52 AM

Hi Dane,

Seaside Cabanas has made a fund, collecting a small % of income and putting this aside to be donated once a year (December) into an Eco project within Belize.
If you have some ideas for something along the renewables line or similar for the Academy then drop me a message as we will likely be deciding on where this years fund will be donated over the next month or so.


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