RVA decided to have an off grid photovoltaic solar system in order to be self sufficient at all times and to remain operational in the event of a central system electricity failure due to climate change related or other disasters.
The Academy can produce (17.5 kW x 4 hours =) 70 kWh and its using about 60 kWh per day on light, pumping water and to keep food refrigerated.
A 17.5 kW system has been installed with 70 solar panels and a battery bank of 120 batteries (which can hold about 156 kWh of energy). This means that the system can produce 17.5 kW per hour, if the sun shines with all its power for one hour. However, batteries are needed because the sun doesn’t shine all day long; some hours during the day it only shines 50%, due to clouds the time of the day or year. Some hours it only shines 10%. On average the sun only shines about 4 hours with full power per day.
Solar water heaters
Less than 3% of the energy in the Caribbean comes from renewable sources. e main obstacle preventing people converting to renewable energy is nancing. In St. Vincent, there is a company that gives credit which made it economically viable for RVA to invest in solar water heaters - thus reducing its energy bill and carbon footprint.
Water heating accounts for up to 25% of the energy used in a typical household in the Caribbean.
There are 6 solar water heaters at RVA, the kitchen and most of the bathrooms have hot water sourced from solar energy. A solar water heater works with room temperature water that flows from the water tank to the solar collector.
At the collector, it is heated up and then returned to the hot water tank. Hot water is then drawn on demand from the tank to the showers and sinks at the kitchen and showers.
Album: Solar Panels
Burning fossil fuels pollute the atmosphere, which leads to Global Warming and Climate Change. A way of climate change mitigation is to use renewable energy sources. There are several renewable energy sources: solar energy, wind energy, different thermal and hydro sources of energy and biogas.
Biogas is distinct from other renewable energy sources because of its characteristics of using, controlling and collecting organic waste and at the same time producing fertilizer as a by-product. Biogas does not have any geographical limitations nor does it require advanced technology for producing energy and at the same time it is very simple to use and apply.
In St. Vincent we are to a large extent dependent on fossil fuels and certainly when it comes to cooking gas. Charcoal is also used for cooking, which requires cutting down trees. Deforestation leads to a decrease in the fertility of land by soil erosion, among other negative environmental impacts. Using firewood as energy is also harmful for the health because of the smoke and the air pollution it causes.
A large amount of kitchen waste in St. Vincent is disposed of in the landfills or discarded into the environment. This can cause public health hazards and diseases. Inadequate management of waste also leads to polluting surface and groundwater and can promote breeding of flies, mosquitoes, rats and other disease-bearing vectors. It also emits methane, which is a major greenhouse gas contributing to Global Warming.
Producing our own renewable cooking gas has thus many benefits.
Kitchen waste is organic material that has high calorific and nutritive properties, which are valuable for microbes that are converting the kitchen waste into methane. The efficient production of biogas can be increased by the right way of using kitchen waste.
Richmond Vale Academy has set up a small biogas digesters which can produce Biogas from kitchen waste. The way the system works is that you apply 1.5-kilo normal kitchen waste with 15 litres of water into a digester where the organic matter is decomposed in an anaerobic process that ends up producing 5 hours of methane gas which can be used for cooking. A by-product is liquid fertilizer, which can be used in the vegetable garden or on the farm.
RVA aims to set up more bio gas units over the next years; here are some of the pioneers Pat Otley, Benson Jacks and Fareeda Nanton
Pat Otley, Richmond
Pat is a farmer who has an organic farm close to Richmond Vale Academy. At the beginning of this project RVA organized a meeting with the workers from RVA to see who of them were interested. We held a presentation about the bio digester project serving coffee and cake.
Pat was very interested in getting a bio digester at his farm from the very beginning. We had already been to his farm a few times before so we knew the place. He has access to water, because the river is close to his farm. Also, he has a lot of organic waste and some manure to feed the bio digester.
We decided to build a plant there, because he could benefit a lot from the fertilizer and the cooking gas. We built a combination of an IBC-tank-digester and a concrete hole with a black tank inside as gas storage. Pat and his friends helped us, because it was a lot of work, especially to dig the hole and mix the concrete for the hole. After the plant was finished we came back a few times to connect the gas
storage with the stove and to make sure he has biogas. From his first gas, he made a pot of tea.
Fareeda Nanton, Petit Bordel
Fareeda is the head of the Markstone Community Group. When we told her about the biogas project she was instantly interested in getting one. Some in our team visited her house to check if she fulfilled the criteria. Since she's also living next to the river and she has fruit and vegetable plants in her garden, we decided that she would be one of the beneficiaries. Fareeda is living in a big house with her family, mother, and brothers, so they produce a lot of kitchen waste to feed the digester. She's getting the manure from neighbors. It took us two days to build the bio digester, which was the first one made only from IBC tanks.
Benson Jack, Richmond
Benson is a farmer in Richmond. We got to know him through Pat, because he was helping to build his biogas digester. He's living in a small shed at the farm, where he's cooking as well. He has no electricity and he was using charcoal for cooking. We went to his farm to visit the place, which was in our opinion ideal for a bio digester. After that we decided to build a plant at his farm, because he could benefit a lot from the gas and the fertilizer. We finished the bio digester quite fast, because it was already the second plant with IBC-tanks. Two weeks later Benson installed the stove and has been cooking ever since!