Thursday, March 23, 2023
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Grand Bahama Power Company’s top executive says running an electricity cable to Abaco is “fraught with complications” and remains a “longer-term opportunity” it plans to explore.
Dave McGregor, Caribbean chief operating officer for Emera, GB Power’s 100 percent owner, told Tribune Business that its priority is the continued roll-out of solar power via agreements with independent power producers (IPPs) and development of associated battery storage capacity.
The possibility of constructing a power cable between east Grand Bahama and Abaco was floated at the recent Grand Bahama Business Outlook conference by Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) president, Ian Rolle. However, Mr McGregor said of the concept: “It hasn’t gone very far.
“We see that as a possible opportunity, but it’s fraught with complications. We’ll continue to look at that as an opportunity, but our focus is really on getting solar under our belt and getting battery storage on the island. This is a longer-term opportunity that we’ll continue to take a look at.”
Mr Rolle had suggested running an electricity cable between his island and Abaco was a way to “stabilise” electricity costs and bring rates down. He added that such a venture would potentially expand Grand Bahama Power Company’s customer base and provide additional redundancy for Abaco consumers who presently rely on Bahamas Power & Light (BPL).
“We feel if we are able to stabilise the cost of electricity.... we envision a cable possibly running from Grand Bahama to Abaco that would help to spread the cost over a larger population and add redundancy for our brothers and sisters next door to us,” he explained. “We hope that with the spreading out of cost, the rate, it will have a positive effect for all of us.”
Back solely on Grand Bahama, Mr Rolle confirmed that the transition to renewable energy was “a big push for this island”. He added: “We have three to four solar plants proposed for Grand Bahama to stabilise the cost and transition to clean energy. I’m so happy to say that one of the projects the Port has been working feverishly on will break ground tomorrow.”
Hours later Mr Rolle and the GBPA were joined by Grand Bahama Power Company in signing a four-party agreement, also involving the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), for construction of a $15m utility-scale solar project at two sites that will supply a combined 9.5 Mega Watts (MW) to the island’s electricity grid.
The deal will see Lucayas Solar Power begin construction on the Devon and Fairfield plants this month. The build-out of the two sites, which will provide 4.5 MW and 5 MW, respectively, is set to create some 80 construction jobs and be completed by the 2024 first quarter.
James Carey, the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce president, subsequently said supplying power from the island to Abaco via an undersea electricity cable was “doable” but more details are required on the initiative. He added that he was unsure how far advanced GB Power and the GBPA were on the initiative given there were signs that the announcement at last week’s Business Outlook conference may have been premature.
“I really didn’t know this was on the cards for GB Power and GBPA,” he said. “I think Mr Rolle was speaking a little bit out of turn when he mentioned it at the Grand Bahama Business Outlook because it is something GB Power is looking at is the implication that he gave.”
Mr Carey noted that east Grand Bahama’s proximity to Abaco meant there had even been previous discussions about “building a bridge” between the two. Mr Carey said running a power cable between the two islands would present logistical and infrastructure challenges at the very least.
“I was a little bit confused there for a moment, so I guess it’s one of those things that we’ll have to wait and see, and when the opportunity comes by then I can go a little deeper if I get the opportunity,” Mr Carey added. “Mr Rolle also made mention of the fact that they’re looking at micro grid to service East Grand Bahama, which is not very populated and, you know, it’s a long run and, of course, the longer the run then the more electricity that’s lost in the power lines.
“But if you’re looking at a micro-grid to service East Grand Bahama, they can’t really be, in my view, looking at a cable connecting Abaco, because if you connect Abaco then the line must go through east Grand Bahama, so why micro grid if you’re going to be doing this massive infrastructure line to Abaco? So I don’t know if Mr Rolle and the GB Power are on the same page.”
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