Friday, April 12, 2024

‘Follow Bajan lead in solar water heating’


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BARBADOS IS BEING HAILED as one of four solar water heating “world champions” that are worthy of emulation.

Dieter Holm, regional coordinator of the Southern African Solar Thermal Training And Demonstration Initiative (SOLTRAIN), has cited Cyprus, Israel, Austria and Barbados as “the four world champions in per capita solar water heating market penetration”.

SOLTRAIN is a three-year project to enhance solar thermal technology in Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

It is “focussed on solar thermal systems because solar radiation levels in Southern Africa are high, and these systems can readily be manufactured or assembled there”.

Also, it is believed that “solar thermal systems like solar water heating have a huge potential to alleviate the serious problems of unemployment, power supply, energy costs, and pollution”.

In a new study on the issue, Holm said while Barbados and the others were in the top four, South Africa was ranked at 42. He said the goal was that within 15 years South Africa’s solar water heater market penetration would be “comparable to that of Barbados three years ago”.

“Bearing in mind that [solar water heating] normally provides at least 24-hour energy storage, the beneficial impacts on the national grid, economy, job creation, and environment, are provided,” he said.

In the case of the Barbados lessons, Holm said: “During the 1950s, the renowned South African solar pioneer Austin Whillier, did [solar water heating] experiments in Barbados. Canon Andrew Hatch, who made a [solar water heater] out of an old oil drum for his church, followed him. In 1973, James Husbands convinced Prime Minister Tom Adams to install a [solar water heater] on his home, saving 70 per cent on his home gas consumption.

“During 1974, full tax exemption was granted on [solar water heating] material (-20 per cent) and 30 per cent was levied on electric geysers.”

Holm said just like Israel, for Barbados, the important thing was that successive governments had been consistent in their support of the sector.

“The review of international, local and regional SOLTRAIN experience lead to the following conclusions: the long term success of all the world champions relies on a broad based grassroots support by the population, whether this came in the form of spontaneous entrepreneurs (Cyprus, Barbados, Greece), public protests (Austria) or from public support of a top-down government emergency law (Israel).

“Stable, long term government policies are an absolute prerequisite for investor confidence, and for the growth of domestic [solar water heating] use, manufacturing, installation, maintenance and export industries.” (SC)


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