“We Are Abaco Strong” — The Bahamas Inspiring Resilience At Scale

“We Are Abaco Strong” — The Bahamas Inspiring Resilience At Scale


In July 2015, after Hurricane Matthew struck The Bahamas, Dr. Rhianna Neely determined it was the final time they might trip out a storm like this. Energy outages, so frequent throughout these storms, had left her household, which now included a four-month-old child, in darkness, with no followers or air-con to chill them from the blistering warmth. “That was hell on wheels,” Neely informed RMI.

From that day ahead, Neely arrange her residence for resilience, including storage backup in order that even within the overcast days that adopted heavy storms, the vitality from her photo voltaic panels would nonetheless be out there. Because the director of the federal government’s division of environmental planning and safety, Neely is now working to strengthen her nation’s local weather response.

“Local weather change in The Bahamas is far more than renewable vitality,” Neely stated. “It’s a matter of survival on an existential in addition to sensible stage. For one, the nation itself is getting smaller, as sea stage rise inundates seashores and low-lying areas turn into uninhabitable wetlands. That rise compromises underground aquifers, that means the nation’s planners should once more flip to know-how and produce water by reverse osmosis.”

Though The Bahamas has a negligible carbon footprint of its personal, the nation is decided to indicate different bigger, extra polluting international locations what may be completed, Neely stated. “It’s vital for us to indicate {that a} nation of our dimension can do one thing to impression the local weather, and different international locations which can be bigger — and are having extra of an impression on the local weather system — ought to do much more.”

Shifting from Dependence to Independence

By Caribbean requirements, The Bahamas is affluent. On a per capita foundation, it outranks not solely its neighbors but additionally its tourism-focused rivals like Greece and Croatia. Vacationers flock to the archipelago for the sunshine and pristine seashores, contributing to roughly half of its annual GDP.

For now, fossil fuels energy all of it. And for all its relative wealth, The Bahamas is roughly 92 % depending on gasoline imports from outdoors the nation — and on the whim of the value fluctuations that include it.

Additional, Neely and her colleagues are working to place the solar to work not only for vacationers on their solar loungers, however for Bahamians of their day-to-day lives. Some high-profile solar energy tasks have already materialized: a 950 kW photo voltaic cover on the nationwide stadium in Nassau and a first-of-its-kind solar panel array able to withstanding the sorts of hurricanes anticipated to turn into extra highly effective, and extra frequent, because the earth’s temperature rises.

One other first of its sort for The Bahamas, is the not too long ago accomplished solar and battery microgrid on Ragged Island. That system powers the small fishing neighborhood on Ragged with over 90 % renewable vitality because of a collaboration between RMI, the federal government, and the nationwide utility, Bahamas Energy and Mild. There are additionally a number of new photo voltaic installations on authorities roofs over the previous 12 months because of the help of the InterAmerican Improvement Financial institution and RMI. However these tasks are simply the very begin of an bold 7-year transition.

Even earlier than the struggle in Ukraine introduced gasoline costs to eye-watering ranges, Bahamian authorities coverage had begun to align with the necessity to construct a greater, cleaner vitality future for the islands.

The Bahamas has set a goal of 30 % renewable vitality manufacturing by 2030, a purpose that requires a whole lot of latest photo voltaic and vitality effectivity tasks. The nationwide utility estimates the nation should not solely set up 260 megawatts of photo voltaic vitality, but additionally cut back electrical energy demand by 1 % annually for the following ten years.

Making these plans a actuality entails a dramatic scaling up of photo voltaic capability from the capital in Nassau out to its extra sparsely inhabited “household” islands that account for roughly 30 of the 700 islands that make up the nation.

Maintaining the Lights on at Faculties

In Abaco, a bunch of household islands which can be a two-hour boat trip from Nassau, RMI is working alongside the federal government and Compass Photo voltaic, to offer photo voltaic and storage programs to a few main faculties throughout Abaco that had been closely broken in Hurricane Dorian. These programs permit the faculties to raised fulfil their twin roles as each establishments of studying and emergency shelters for the encompassing neighborhood. Yesterday, the nation held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to have a good time these three programs coming on-line.

Bahamian Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. I. Chester Cooper, alongside authorities officers, RMI and undertaking companions, earlier than slicing the ribbon to have a good time the brand new programs throughout Abaco main faculties. Picture credit score Compass Photo voltaic.

One faculty in Abaco’s Nice Guana Cay has reworked from a facility that skilled as many as 5 energy cuts a day to at least one that now runs on regular, dependable energy from the solar. That’s important for this faculty as a result of specialist lessons are nonetheless taught just about from the mainland, making a reliable web connection essential. Now the one signal they’ve of an influence outage is when the neighborhood generator kicks in to make sure cellphone service remains to be out there.

The RMI and Compass Photo voltaic Crew smile in entrance of the finished photo voltaic and storage set up at Nice Guana Cay Main College. Picture credit score RMI.

Tavia Maynard, Nice Guana Cay faculty principal, says the undertaking helps eradicate any studying hole between her college students and people in bigger faculties. “Phrases can’t specific the sensation that we’ve got realizing that even when the ability is out elsewhere, our college students don’t must expertise that.”

The pupils at Man-O-Conflict Cay faculty, one of many few Eco schools in The Bahamas, have additionally purchased in, even when they show a toddler’s pure skepticism that that is all too good to be true: “I’ve to generally be careful as a result of they’ll have me sitting in darkness,” Mrs. Deborah Clarke, the college’s principal stated, including that the scholars are so decided to preserve vitality that they may swap off the lights the second she leaves the room. “I’ve to clarify that Mrs. Clarke is planning on coming again in right here to do some work or else they may click on these lights off in a rush,” she laughs.

Mrs. Clarke, principal of Man-O-Conflict Main College, teaches college students arithmetic. Picture credit score RMI.

For Clarke, the transition was so simple as clearing out a closet to make means for battery storage. These batteries now present back-up energy in order that, storm or sunshine, the college will take pleasure in constant entry to electrical energy.

Clarke stated the college’s new energy supply provides to a resilience already ingrained in its individuals. After Hurricane Dorian, Clarke stated, “Folks had been battered however they weren’t knocked down. Although the homes had been destroyed, no one stopped and stated, ‘Woe is me,’ they put their arms to the plow they usually began work instantly.”

“We’re Abaco robust,” Clarke added. “So which means you’re knocked down, however you’re not forgotten and also you’re not knocked out, you’re going to rebuild.”

Simone Pinder, a fifth grade trainer at Central Abaco Main College, shared how being on the faculty through the photo voltaic and storage set up course of taught her loads. “Once I suppose photo voltaic, I simply suppose, solar!” she laughed. “I didn’t learn about all that went into placing the panels up. The Compass Photo voltaic installers taught me a number of issues; I by no means thought it could be so detailed.”

Compass Photo voltaic installer at dawn on the roof of Abaco Central Main finishing the photo voltaic installations. Picture credit score Compass Solar.

As Pinder emphasised, the college programs are extremely impactful, however planning and putting in renewable vitality programs requires ability. To broaden the advantages seen inside the faculties and meet the size of the nation’s want, The Bahamas will want a military of installers.

Creating the Inexperienced Workforce

That’s why final month, the federal government, alongside RMI and with help from the Inexperienced Local weather Fund, launched a photo voltaic evaluation and vitality auditing coaching program to help 20 chosen contributors from Bahamian universities, the utility, and authorities in constructing the abilities required to understand clear, resilient vitality — at scale. This capacity-building initiative will put together the cohort of Bahamian engineers, technicians, electrical contractors, and different professionals to actively take part within the nation’s pursuit of its sustainable vitality objectives by offering them with coaching in photo voltaic PV and vitality effectivity.

The Minister of the Surroundings and Pure Sources, Hon. Vaughn P. Miller, provides opening remarks on the primary day of the nationwide photo voltaic and vitality auditing coaching program. Picture credit score Authorities of The Bahamas.

Philipp Feller, a V.P. of Photo voltaic at Compass Solar System Ltd, a Bahamian-owned photo voltaic firm that was engaged by RMI to design and set up the photo voltaic PV programs on the three Abaco faculties, sees the worth in getting extra Bahamians concerned within the vitality transition: “Identical to you’re coaching plumbers, nurses, engineers, and everybody else, there have to be coaching out there in order that native corporations can pull from a pool of ‘graduates’ that may come into the sector and be productive.”

Whereas the urge for food to remodel vitality in The Bahamas is robust, there may be nonetheless an extended street forward. Within the meantime, whereas the nation ramps up its renewable vitality capabilities, Neely, the federal government director, hopes the investments in photo voltaic and storage know-how will present frontline aid when the following hurricane inevitably makes landfall. “I feel there will probably be a collective sigh of aid that hey, I’m so pleased that we made this funding and that we are able to see the payoff of the funding proper then and there.”

By Tierney Sheehan, Colm Quinn

© 2023 Rocky Mountain Institute. Revealed with permission. Initially posted on RMI Outlet.

Extra: The Bahamas Bolsters Hurricane-Resilient, Clean Energy at Three Primary Schools and Lays Foundations for Scaling


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