Solar energy gains popularity in St. Maarten

POSTED: 02/13/12 3:07 PM

Library works on solar energy project

St. Maarten – The Philipsburg Jubilee Library is looking for sponsors to fund a solar energy project. Director Monique Alberts has approached several businesses with a request to sponsor a 5 kilowatt solar system; the costs are $17,000 and the system will save the library a bit more than 16.5 percent on its energy bill. The library works on the project together with Anthony Prall Jr., owner of the Caribbean Energy Store. He will install the system at no expense.

Once the system is installed, Prall will give monthly information sessions about solar energy at the library.

Prall told this newspaper that he will install a public monitor in the library’s lobby, where visitors are able to see how much energy the solar system generates.

While there has been much talk in the past about alternative energy sources, on a national level not much has been done. But businesses and home owners are getting increasingly fed up with relentless power cuts and skyrocketing energy bills. These conditions have driven the private sector to take matters into their own hands.

“Solar power is the way to go for St. Maarten,” Prall says. “In the past four years my company has installed solar systems at 35 private homes and at ten businesses.”

Prall practices what he preaches: he has installed 69 solar panels on his home in Guana Bay. “I run 5 air conditioning systems 24/7 and I have a GEBE bill of just $23.” To prove this point, Prall showed us a copy of his energy bill.

The library is also looking forward to installing solar panels on the roof of the library bus. For this project the library is also looking for a sponsor to donate the equipment.

Prall was recently forced to take down two wind turbines on his property in Guana Bay, after the Home Owners association took him to court. Shortly afterwards, his neighbor, Vice Prime Minister Theo Heyliger, erected a wind turbine on his property.

But wind turbines are not as effective as solar panels, Prall says. “For a wind turbine to produce to capacity, the wind has to be blowing 24/7. We have had a couple of weeks with plenty of wind, but it is not constant. The sun is practically always out there.”

On his website, Prall says that an average residential solar system costs between $5,500 and $25,000. Offset against $100,000 in electricity bills over the next 30 years makes the investment worthwhile.

Prall quotes a Dr. Johnson on his home page, who said: “When you think about the alternative energy as an investment vehicle it actually makes great sense for today’s economic environment. What other investment of $10,000 will return $45,000 in five years? Between a savings of let’s say $4000 a year on energy bills and appreciation of $25K on value of the house that’s a $45,000 return within five years on an investment of $10,000 and there’s zero speculation, risk, etc. It’s an unbeatable investment vehicle! Hell people are hoarding cash and burying it in their backyards, why not “bury it” on your roof and get a great return?”

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Comments (4)


  1. Ron Luikaart says:

    Anthony Prall is very knowledgable concerning installation of solar electric systems. I’ve talked to him for hours and he certainly is a Fount’ of Knowledge. He’ll also get you the best prices for equipment and install professionally.

    At the high price of electricity on the islands, the payback is about 3 years. Pay for a solar system with the savings received over 3 years and then your electricity is FREE for the next 25 years. The best deal in the Universe!

  2. Ron Luikaart says:

    Solar prices drop dramatically, good for Anguilla

    The solar industry is in the grip of a huge glut as factories have ramped up production just as demand dropped off. In the past months we have seen the cost of solar modules collapse and prices fall as much as 70%. The demise of American solar manufacturers has been dramatic as fancy new technologies just could not compete with the downward pressure on prices.
    The installed price of residential solar PV in Anguilla is so low, it outpaces utility electricity prices by any reasonable measure you can apply.
    I still find people referring to new “high efficiency solar” products that are just around the corner. The reality is, the products available today are cheap, readily available and very reliable. There is very little appetite for investment into new and esoteric materials because the market is satisfied with the existing technology. The people who are waiting for new products will be waiting for a long time.
    Anguilla is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the drop in prices for a number of reasons.
    1) The Government is very pro-solar, making the importation of equipment duty-free and not imposing any permitting restrictions. The adoption of a National Energy Policy was a great first step and recent work to overhaul legislation to facilitate the integration of solar has received external funding.
    2) The cost of electricity is very high, beyond what the economy can stand. It is widely recognized that something must change to enable Anguilla to progress, and we all know it is not going to be a reduction in the price of oil. The high price of electricity makes solar very competitive.
    3) Anguilla has a Renewable Energy Office, effectively administered by Beth Barry. The office has been an evangelist for renewable energy solutions and has been able to act as an independent advocate to Government and the private sector, helping to smooth the way and advise the politico and public alike.
    With the opportunities to purchase solar equipment at record low prices and the rising cost of oil, Anguilla can make great progress in controlling energy costs, creating energy related jobs and leading the way among Caribbean Islands, to stand out as a technologically progressive country.

    Chris Mason
    NABCEP Certified PV Designer/Installer

  3. Ron Luikaart says:

    For Caribbean consumers, there is no debate. With Electricity costs at $0.43 in Anguilla and higher consumer rates in other islands, the cost of self generation is dramatically lower. It is only a question of understanding the math to be able to see this. A typical residential solar system in Anguilla can create electricity at $.20 per KWh.
    In order to generate electricity for your home, there is a substantial investment in the equipment. However, there is very little cost from that point on. Part of determining the real cost of solar electricity is to be able to put a value on that that investment. Luckily, the financial world has formulas for this type of calculation. In this case, we would use the “value of money” formula known as the Net Present Value. Using the monthly saving in electricity as a cash flow, we compare that to the value of this to our outlay.
    When I do this calculation for customers, they see a significant saving over buying retail electricity. Even if a customer only creates 25% of their electricity needs, that is a significant savings and it is 25% that will not go up in cost as electricity costs increase. It is also money that does not go back to oil companies.
    Solar PV costs continue to drop, and oil continues to rise. We are already way beyond the point where solar is cheaper than residential electricity, so why are we so slow to use it? It’s not because we are happy paying the cost of electricity, as electricity rates are causing great distress to business and homes in the Caribbean.
    I believe there is a ” head in the sand” mentality, a widespread refusal to consider alternatives, a hope the “good times” will magically return, and an unwillingness to realize we are in deep financial trouble exacerbated by the rising cost of energy. Once this passes and reality sets in, maybe the Caribbean will move to utilize our abundant resource. Maybe.

    From Chris Mason’s Blog

  4. Anthony Prall Jr says:

    I have to say I agree with Chris Mason People on St.Maarten/St. Martin are Blind they are working like slaves.
    Just to eat, pay rent and pay for Electricity at $.40 per watt.

    There heads are in the sand. With Solar panels at todays
    low prices the Return on your investment is quick.
    1. By installing residential solar panels adds immediate value to your home by reducing your energy usage and electricity costs.
    2. How fast you would see a return on your investment? We call this the “payback”.
    Many people believe that installing a solar system will not provide a return on their investment in a soon enough time to make it a financially smart decision – but you will see in the first 30 Days a payback. And once your investment is “paid back”, the savings that you reap on your electric bill is your pocket every month!
    3. So you will see from the first month’s electric bill a BIG reduction.
    3 strings of 12 panels each string 12 – ( 36 ) = 8,820w sections @6 per 20 feet
    36 panels 245 watt panels = 8,820 watts per hour X 5.5h = 48.5 kwh per day
    $ 3.52 per hour for 5.5 hours
    $ 19.35 per day
    $ 580.00 per month
    $ 6,969.60 per year
    ROI ………”Paid back” in 40 months less than 3.4 years. Free electricity for the next 22 years………………………………………………………..
    Total income generated in 25 year life time………. $ 174,240.00 US Dollars
    ( not including any Rate increase from utility Company, or world oil supply increase in price.And once your investment is “paid back”, the savings that you reap on your electric bill and the money that you earn becomes money in your pocket every month!
    • Hedge against rising utility costs and avoid being affected by price increases from power companies
    • Generate clean power that produces no pollution or emissions
    • Gain power independence: Rely completely on your own generating capacity, and not on a utility company
    • Demonstrate your responsibility: Show your customers and the media that you are focused on socially responsible business practices
    • Take advantage of accelerated depreciation of equipment
    • Enjoy improved resale value of your business
    • Help reduce our country’s dependence on foreign oil

    Anthony Prall Jr. Caribbean Energy Store

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