A buzz word in government circles the last decade has been — partnerships, especially private-public partnerships. As usual, it is easier to talk about something than it is to do it.
However, one such partnership was pulled off in the Virgin Islands recently that will benefit many residents.
The Virgin Islands Energy Office had been storing 60 solar panels that had been shipped here for another project and not needed. It was decided that it would not be worth the trouble of shipping them back so the Energy Office came into possession of them.
We Grow Food Inc. last year built a new market shelter for the Bordeaux Farmer’s market and began to expand use of the market place. Along with the expanded use, came more electrical use and a higher Water and Power Authority bill.
In the Department of Agriculture’s effort to help the farmers, Commissioner Louis Petersen learned about the Energy Office’s panels. Still there was a problem. Who could install the panels?
This is when James Shaw entered the picture. In discussing other matters at the Energy Office, about his company Solential West Indies, he learned about the need the Energy Office and the Department of Agriculture had; he volunteered to resolve the problem free of charge.
It was not just a matter of having a couple of guys go on the roof, put in racks, and install the panels. Transportation was called for, other equipment was needed. A big item – the inverter – was needed and through Shaw; Chint Power agreed to donate it to the project. Shaw also had to call on other professionals for help. Florida Welding, James Adams Electrical donated freely.
All this team work had a special feel. The farmers at Bordeaux chipped in whenever they could with ladders or labor.
The dedicating of solar and other alternative power installation are no longer a big deal in the Virgin Islands. However the dedication of this installation on Jan. 18 at the Bordeaux Farmers Rastafarian Agricultural and Cultural Food Fair was special. There was handshaking, pats on the backs, hugs and applause. The installation was completed with no cost to taxpayers. If, We Grow Food had to install the system, it would have cost over $20,000.
The sixty, 75-watt panels should provide a savings of $285 a month to the famers.
The kicker is, not only was this a community partnership, but it was a partnership that had at its core sustainability, alternative energy, and food production.
Shaw said a lot in the few words he said at the dedication. “We decided to give to the farmers today. The farmers give to us everyday.”
V.I. Energy Office