Published On: Mon, Jun 3rd, 2024

Solar systems offer a solution to frequent power cuts

PHILIPSBURG -- Is there a way to combat the persistent power cuts plaguing Utilities Company GEBE and its customers? David Salomon, who won 68 votes as the number 10 candidate for the Party for Progress (PFP) during the January parliamentary elections, says that there is. His company Salomon Solar offers solar systems in the price range of $1,648 to $6,240.

Before designing a custom-made solar system, Salomon suggests to prospective customers that they begin by reducing their energy consumption. This can be done several ways, for instance by switching off lights when you are not at home and limiting the use of energy-slurping air-conditioning systems. Providing the company with an overview of one’s energy consumption during the past six months gives Salomon an idea about the type of solar solution a customer needs.

There are two options: going off-grid completely and relying completely on the energy supply of a solar system and using a solar system to reduce the regular GEBE energy invoices.

Customers also have to indicate the percentage of their electricity needs during a power outage. The question is of course which appliances must keep working under solar power, like air conditioning, fridges, lights and any other appliance that is critical for a particular customer. The total wattage of critical appliances determines the size of the solar system a customer needs. Needless to say, be it at a residential place or a business premise there must also be space to install solar panels.

Salomon asks prospective customers to describe this space or to submit pictures to clarify this issue.

What about the price? Salomon suggests budget ranges starting at $1,200 and ending at more than $6,000.

The basic package is a 24 Volt Growatt system with an AC output of 3,000 Watt that comes with an 8-cell battery. With two solar panels the price is $1,648 and with five panels $2,170.This system is able to power most 110 Volt appliances like microwaves, toasters, irons, lights and fans. It is not suitable for powering air-conditioning systems.

The midrange Growatt system comes at a higher price; between $2,600 (with four panels) and $3,590 (10 panels). These systems can power all appliances including air-conditioning.

Top of the range is a 48 Volt EG4 6000XP system with an AC output of 6,000Watt and an 18-cell battery. With six panels the price is $3,800, with twenty panels the price goes up to $6,240. The system can power all appliances and up to three air-conditioners at the same time.

Power cuts have obviously increased the interest in alternative solutions, but there is still an issue that needs to be resolved: legislation.

The national energy policy, published in 2014 by the ministries of Public Housing, Urban Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) and Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) opens with a dramatic statement: “There is no Planet B.”

The report states that GEBE-customers consume on average 1,500 Kilowatthour per month - “one of the highest figures in the region.”

At the time the report was written the average monthly GEBE-invoice for domestic customers was around $200.

The electricity concessions ordinance and GEBE’s electricity concession stipulate that small producers (like households) are allowed to produce energy for their own use from renewable sources but only up to 450 Kilowatt.

The concession ordinances stipulate that individual power producers cannot sell that electricity to any other entity than GEBE. This requires a power purchase agreement that sets a reasonable price.

The report contains an overview of regional consumer prices for electricity that show St. Maarten somewhere in the middle of the pack with a Kilowatt price of 35 to 36 dollar cents. Electricity was at the time the cheapest in Surinam (5 to 11 dollar cents per Kilowatt) and the most expensive in Curacao and the Bahamas (42 dollar cents).







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