With ever-growing energy needs in the world, we strive to leave as small a carbon footprint on the Earth as we can. Living in a boarding school which can house up to 75 people at one time, we came to appreciate how every small electrical device contributes to our collective energy spending.
In becoming a climate compliant community we are currently in the process of switching into renewable energy sources. We research and experiment with different ways of producing the energy in our small island reality. We come up with affordable solutions which can be replicated in St. Vincent households, using locally available materials. We apply for grants and transform our school into a model climate centre where we lead by example.
We are still at the beginning of the road to switch to carbon neutral energy, but we already have several working solutions in place, which we are constantly improving.
We have started our transition to carbon neutral energy by constructing a small biogas plant, a system which transforms household waste into usable methane.
The main part of the system is called a digester. It’s a large black tank filled with bacteria that digests organic waste and convert it into methane gas. We feed the biogas plant with a mixture of domestic organic and kitchen waste, like fruit and vegetable waste, with other organic leftovers and liquid or solid manure from animal farming, in our case from pigs and horses; as well as water.
The methane gas produced inside the biogas system is used in the kitchen for cooking. The system produces rich in nutrients waste water which is used in our organic garden where we pour it over the plants to help them grow.
Our biogas plant serves as an example of sustainable household energy source for the visitors. We are currently preparing the project in which similar systems will be installed in local communities, hopefully eliminating the need for buying expensive cooking gas.
Watch this video with the Climate Compliance Conference team constructing our first biogas plant!
Less than 3% of the energy in the Caribbean comes from renewable sources.
The main obstacles for people to change to renewable energy is financing. In St. Vincent we found a company which gives credit so we can invest in solar water heaters and thus reduce our energy bill and carbon footprint.
Water heating accounts for up to 25% of the energy used in a typical household in the Caribbean. We have installed 4 solar water heaters at Richmond Vale Academy. Most of our bathrooms have hot water from solar energy (most of the time, except the dry season, it’s also rainwater, collected on our rooftops).
How does a solar water heater work? First the water flows from the tank through the solar collector, where it is heated by the sun rays. Then it returns to the hot water tank, waiting to be used in our kitchen and bathrooms. Simple!
With over 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, St. Vincent is the perfect place for utilizing solar energy. Richmond Vale Academy is in the process of bringing more solar power initiatives to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
After two years of investigations and applications, we have found financing for installing a new 17 kW solar panel system on our school’s rooftops. After the task is completed, the Climate Compliance Conference aims at reaching out to our communities with an example of how to create a self-sustainable energy supply.
Once the system is running smoothly and the educational campaign about the benefits of solar energy has been realized, we will assist different groups and communities in developing their own energy security.
Apart from being an example and educational place for the people in St. Vincent, the solar panels will also provide our school centre with cheap and clean energy.
Our monthly energy consumption is 2,190 kWh. The kWh rate is in 0.44 USD, which makes our monthly electricity bill 963.60 USD. The solar power system will cover all of our energy needs. The new solar panels will help us save money on energy and this money will be used to invest in other Climate Compliance Actions.