“Going Solar” seems to be on everyone’s mind these days as they brace for the latest 19% increase in the cost of electricity. With financing options being offered by local banks for “Green Energy” loans that range from 8% (straight loan) to 3.5% (rolled into a refinanced mortgage) it’s possible to eliminate your electric bill and substitute it for a loan payment that’s about half of what you were paying to WAPA.
As more people opt to “Go Solar,” however, the more important it becomes for DPNR and WAPA to streamline the current bottle neck in the permitting process. Germany’s solar permitting process is one that the Virgin Islands should strive to emulate. Here is what the permitting process looks like in Germany:
“In most recent issue of PHOTON magazine describing a German family that got a 4.6 kW PV array installed and interconnected to their roof 8 days after calling a solar installer for the first time. The homeowner had a proposal from the installer within 8 hours. The installer called the utility the morning of the installation to request an interconnect that afternoon. The installer called at 10 am, the utility came and installed 2 new meters and approved the interconnect at 2:37pm– the same day. The online registration of the PV system with Federal Grid agency and approval of the feed-in tariff took 5 minutes.” (9-25-2012 Renewable Energy World.com )
By comparison here in the Virgin Islands the same process can take six weeks to four months. This long lag time between when someone purchases a renewable energy system and when they can turn it on puts the home or business owner in “Double Financial Jeopardy.” Not only do they have to continue to pay their high electric bill until the permits clear and they are allowed to activate the system, but they also have to now pay the loan they took out to finance the system. In these difficult economic times this “Double Financial Jeopardy” should be unacceptable to our government agencies (and the Governor) and corrected immediately.
If we aspire to improve the Virgin Islands permitting process for renewable energy system so it functions more like the German system, then there are a number of things we can do immediately to move in this direction. First, DPNR should increase the number of electrical inspectors from one on each island (for all things electrical); one person can only do so much. Second, DPNR and WAPA should implement a 100% on-line permitting system (down load forms, submittal of forms and documents, payment of fees, receipt of certificates, etc.). Third, implement the coordination and sharing of forms, documents, and files between DPNR and WAPA (duplicate forms and documents are now being requested by these entities, all of which must be presented in person). Making these improvements will greatly reduce the “Double Financial Jeopardy” now being experienced by residents of the Virgin Islands and speed the Territory’s transition to renewable energy.
Kelly Gloger, St. Croix
Using a German Model for Virgin Islands Solar
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