Abaco Schools Microgrids Project

Cutting of the ribbon by I. Chester Cooper

Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources (MENR) Vaughn P. Miller applauds a recent project that will bring renewable and sustainable energy to three Abaco schools.

He joined a slate of government officials and industry leaders at the recent unveiling and ribbon cutting ceremony of the Abaco Schools Microgrid Project, which will roll out to the tune of $700,000. The project oversaw the installation of solar panels and battery energy storage
systems at three Abaco schools – Central Abaco Primary School, Man-O-War Primary School and Great Guana Cay School.

“As a nation, currently dependent on imported fossil fuels for most of our energy supply, solar systems provide a meaningful alternative and a glimpse into the future of the Bahamas,” Minister Miller said.

“These installations are a clear indication to all of what is possible. It has provided hope for a brighter tomorrow as we embrace a new way – a more climate resilient way of operating. We are truly grateful for this transformation.” The Minister also used the opportunity to announce that the project has been recognized on the international stage, receiving the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum (CREF) 2023, Energy Resilience Award.

“This winning installation has placed the Bahamas on the map. Our plans for renewable energy installation are catching the eyes of our regional partners and positively impacting the lives of Bahamians,” he said.

Principal among the organisations and agencies that helped to facilitate the Abaco Schools Microgrid Project was the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). Minister Miller credited the non-profit organisation with being a major partner in the Bahamas’ transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy.

“They recognized the importance of such a venture and joined our efforts,” he said. Minister Miller also highlighted the involvement of Rotary Bahamas Disaster Relief Fund and Compass Power for transforming the schools into energy efficient spaces that allow them to reduce their energy costs and create educational opportunities.

David Gumbs, Director of RMI’s Islands Energy Program, credited the Bahamas with taking an important step “to becoming more climate-resilient, green and energy independent through harnessing natural resources”.

Gumbs also pointed out that the Microgrid Project, which was a collaborative effort between the Centre for Disaster Philanthropy, the Ministry of the Environment, and other partners, had “propelled the Bahamas into the forefront of the renewable energy and disaster recovery conversation”.

“The completion of this project and recognition on the global stage is a true testament to this nation’s leading efforts in rebuilding communities stronger through the energy transition,” Mr. Gumbs said.

He further explained that with the solar and storage microgrids at the three primary schools which function as ‘critical facilities’ in the community, Abaco is not only ensuring consistent access to education for students through reliable and affordable power, but they will also act as emergency shelters for the community during hurricanes.

“RMI was proud to support this project from planning to the formal commissioning, both from a technical and logistical perspective, as well as fostering collaboration between government ministries, contractors, school faculty and students at each step of the way,” he said.

“This project would not have been successful without the support of the Ministry of Environment, and the management of Compass Solar, responsible for the installations, and the staff and students of the three Abaco schools.”

The timeline for the Abaco Schools Microgrid Project began in earnest in February 2022 with the contract signing and the beginning of detailed design work. The full design was prepared in four months and work at the facilities began in early October 2022.

The installations at both the Central Abaco Primary School and the Great Guana Cay School were completed by the end of January 2023. The installation of the Man-O-War Primary School system commenced in early February 2023 and was completed by the end of that month.
RMI has indicated that the three installations were inspected by Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) and the Ministry of Works & Utilities earlier this month and are expected to be fully certified. Certification will mean that the systems are now permitted to be put into full operation and sell power back to the grid.

Source: Felicity Darville

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