VIERS Shows Off New Solar Electrical System to Energy Office Officials

(L to R) V.I. Energy Office Director Karl Knight, Jamie Irving, Energy Office coordinator Joseph Daniel and Andy Rutnik, who wrote the grant, at VIERS.

A new almost 10 kW solar electric system at the Virgin Islands Environmental Research Station was soaking up rays as V.I. Energy Office officials toured the area on Friday, June 17.

The new photovoltaic system at VIERS, expected to reduce the camp’s electrical bill by about 35 percent, was installed in April thanks to a $50,000 discretionary grant from the V.I. Energy Office.

The new solar array at VIERS compliments more than a decade of energy savings at the remote Lameshur Bay resource station and camp. The camp’s energy efficiency was on full display under clear skies last week as V.I. Energy Office Director Karl Knight toured the area with VIERS operations manager Jamie Irving.

VIERS and the V.I. Energy Office have been collaborating for years, with the first major photovoltaic system installed at the camp in 2003. Fourteen 30-watt panels, producing about 1.8 kW, were installed then with help from the Rotary Club of St. John and the support of the V.I. Energy Office’s rebate program.

The station’s newest solar electrical systems were installed in April with a $50,000 grant from V.I. Energy Office funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“We’re very happy to be here at VIERS,” said Don Buchanan, V.I. Energy Office’s public information officer. “We’ve been partners with VIERS for many years and today we’re celebrating the latest addition of their energy efficiency and renewable energy efforts.”

VIERS operations manager Jamie Irving.

VIERS, run by Clean Islands International, has been at the forefront of energy efficiency for years, explained V.I. Energy Office operations coordinator Joseph Daniel, who is overseeing the latest grant.

“VIERS has always been a good steward of energy efficiency,” said Daniel. “We were very impressed when we came out here and saw what they were already doing. We were excited that they applied for a new grant for solar water heating systems and new solar electric systems.”

“We expect huge savings for VIERS and we’ll be monitoring their data so we’ll be able to tell exactly how much their savings are,” Daniel said.
As an environmental resource station, VIERS is dedicated to energy efficiency, but the camp is also a great place to educate people about the technology, explained VIERS operations manager Irving.

“When we installed the first photovoltaic system eight years ago, right away we started seeing savings on all different fronts,” said Irving. “Last month we installed four new systems with the ARRA funds and V.I. Energy Office grant. A major success of both has been the education component.”

“Hundreds of local school kids, scientists from the states and many families pass through here and we’ve been able to demonstrate how these systems work and how they can be implemented, in a camp setting like this, but also in their own homes,” Irving said.

V.I. Energy Office officials have set an ambitious energy efficiency goal for the territory to meet over the next few years, explained Karl Knight.

“Our goal is 60 percent reduction in fossil fuel usage by the year 2025,” said the new V.I. Energy Office director. “There are several incremental steps we’ll have to take to get there and one large component of that is energy conservation. Another component of that deals with clean energy sources like solar, wind and waste to energy.”

“There is great potential for solar use in the territory,” said Knight. “The sun is abundant and we might as well harness it.”

Irving led the group on a tour of the VIERS camp, pointing out four independent solar hot water heater systems and three arrays of solar electrical systems along the way. The camp’s fourth solar electrical system array is located at VIERS’ wet lab at Great Lameshur Bay, which needs constant energy for on-going experiments, explained Irving.

The original photovoltaic system is a 1.8 kW system which stores energy in batteries. The new 5.38 kW solar electric system is a net metering Enphase Energy

System with all panels having their own inverters. The new system will allow VIERS staff to monitor the performance of each solar panel via the internet, Irving explained.

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