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Solar energy won’t burn a hole in your pocket

The cost of living in the Cayman Islands is extremely high and many will attest that their electricity bills are a big drain on their monthly income, sometimes running into the thousands in the summer time.

That is why fitting solar panels is becoming increasingly popular and in recent years has become more affordable. Fitting solar panels used to be an ideal but expensive option, but the way things are going it will soon become a necessity. Yes, fitting solar panels can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but they are becoming far more cost-effective. The necessity to fit them increases every year.

Alarmingly, the fossil fuels we depend on to power many aspects of our lives will only continue to rise in cost as supplies dwindle. Electricity is already very costly in Cayman, and as small Caribbean nations don’t have the bargaining power of much larger nations, they will be the hardest hit as oil reserves dwindle. Finding alternative sources of energy is vital and various businesses in Cayman are specialising in exactly this.


Industry improvements

Significant improvements are being made in the solar energy industry every year and the Cayman Islands is the perfect location to harness the power of the sun. Solar energy is harvested in two ways: solar photovoltaic (PV), which converts sunlight into electricity and solar thermal which heats water. Solar PV systems come in thin films, panels or tiles and are usually placed on roofs. These require little maintenance and should last 25-30 years.

Home energy storage systems use intelligent technology to power your home if you need to be off the grid to save energy. These systems are also handy during a power outage or hurricane.

Many people are signing up for the Caribbean Utilities Company initiative called the Consumer Owned Renewable Energy (CORE) Programme, whereby CUC will buy alternative energy from independent sources. CUC has proved it is moving with the times with its first solar farm in the Cayman Islands, created in 2017. Although a modest size, it was a historic event.

The 5Mega-Watt Bodden Town Solar Farm generates enough electricity for 800 homes and substantially reduces diesel fuel consumption.

In its National Energy Policy 2017–2037, the Cayman Islands government has set a target of 70 percent of total electricity generation to come from renewable sources by 2037. There’s a big job ahead as the only non-oil energy source in the Cayman Islands is a small amount of solar power; well, now a little more with Bodden Town Solar Farm online. In 2015, renewable energy accounted for only 0.9 percent of electricity generation.


Why choose solar power?

Energy costs have increased dramatically in the last decade and evidence suggests that those costs will continue to spiral upward.

Tariff programmes supported by government such as CUC’s CORE programme provide competitive payback terms and the security of remaining connected to the country’s main energy supply. Twenty-five-year contracts are available to purchase the power produced from your rooftop.

The cost for renewable energy systems continues to decrease, and manufacturing systems for solar systems continues to produce better quality products. The financial returns from investing in for example, Greentech Solar’s SunPower solar system ranges from 10-15 percent annually; with a 250-300 percent total return on investment over 25 years. This equates to an average $400-450 a month saving for a 10kW SunPower system or $200-225 a month for a 5kW SunPower system.

Adding solar power to your commercial or residential property is becoming the environmentally right thing to do.

A solar-powered pool pump will reduce your yearly electric bill by as much as 20 percent.


Will solar panels last in this environment?

Solar panels are salt and humidity tested to ultimate limit levels to endure environments as harsh as in the Cayman Islands. They are warranted for 25-30 years depending on the manufacturers.

All systems must be designed and engineered to withstand a minimum 150mph winds as per Cayman Islands regulations, so they will withstand hurricane forces.


Existing residential homes

Residential solar installs represent much of the work that another Cayman company, ProSolar undertakes here and around the Caribbean. With its experience in completing close to 500 installs in the region ProSolar has gained considerable experience with the idiosyncrasies of the Caribbean.

Many houses for example are close if not directly on the coast facing the full elements from the Caribbean Sea. As expected, its installs have weathered all conditions very well.

Homes that are developed today are generally very efficient. Most developers will include the latest in insulation, LED lights, highest rated A/C systems and the most efficient in appliances.

For the new development therefore, the process if far simpler; once the solar panel company has the load calculations they know exactly the size system CUC will allow them to build. ProSolar installed solar for a new development in Cayman Kai which they used LG panels with the combined inverter.


Example: 5-bedroom house in South Sound

Location: Denham Thompson Way

Inhabitants: 5

Cayman Solar found this house was extremely inefficient. The CI$900 bill was the result of inefficient air conditioners, a single speed pool pump, electric stove and oven, electric dryer and water heater and no LED lights. Cayman Solar upgraded all appliances and once finished, the client’s bill dropped to $430 per month.

They ultimately decided to install a smaller solar array as the children in the house were starting to move away and less power would be required over time. Now the CUC bill stands at $150 per month and the whole system will pay for itself in just over 4 years.

In 2009, Florida Solar One designed and built the second CUC CORE FIT approved solar PV energy system in Cayman. In 2014, the same team installed the island’s largest rooftop PV system and now has over commercial solar energy systems installed and managed in Camana Bay.

Cayman Solar’s latest project is the Cayman International School PV project, and it is anticipated to be one of the highest producing solar assets in Camana Bay. The unique design incorporates a 100 percent marine-grade aluminium structure with limited attachment points to prevent water leakage. The system employs state of the art solar equipment that will shut done at the array level within 1O seconds in the event of a fault conditions – making it the safest system installed in the Cayman Islands, and perhaps the Caribbean.


Cayman solar energy companies

Greentech Solar
68, Sleepy Hollow Dr, George Town
Tel: 949-8324

ProSolar Cayman Islands
#5 Bluebird Warehouse, Kingbird Ave, KY1-1100
Tel: 936-7657

Cayman Solar
10 Market Street, #229, Camana Bay, KY1-9006
Tel: 516-1616

Affordable Solar
194 Dorcy Drive, George Town
Tel: 546-6686

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