It is in the interest of posterity that our citizenry not lose perspective on the emerging energy realities because of the prospects of an oil boom in Guyana in the next few years.
The world dependency on and the high price of oil in past years have provided a stimulus to the development of alternative and renewable energy sources, both from the point of view of promoting important economies and the impact on the environment. It may not be fully appreciated that already in the US and in large population developing countries like India significant strides have been made in the direction of renewable energy use. It is instructive to be aware of the extent to which many of the first world countries have developed and operate wind farms and solar farms, as every advantage is being taken to invest in, and utilise these clean renewable energy forms.
With current attention on our sugar industry the opportunity should be taken to initiate the development of an energy policy to place emphasis on renewable and alternative energy forms, and in particular co-generation at all estate factories. Hybrid co-generating systems are already being operated in some of the more progressive sugar industries, where the conventional co-gen units utilizing fibrous fuel are annexed to contiguous wind and/or solar farms all controlled by a central smart computer. The main objective would be that having met the sugar factories’ energy needs, surplus power should be provided to the national grid.
There is no reason why estates’ marginal cane lands in proximity to factories cannot be set aside for laying down a complex of connecting solar panels to directly power some percentage of factory requirements during sunlight hours, and for selected coastal estates to take advantage of the sea breeze for driving wind turbines. Skeldon estate is strategically located to become a prime candidate for an annexed wind farm. Use of estate land for such initiatives can be considered another diversification mode to support the inevitable reduction in sugarcane operations.
Alternative energy sources are not a panacea for the shortcomings of all fossil-based fuels, or a total replacement for traditional energy, but by judicious use will provide scope and freedom. The world is not standing still; Guyana must move with the tide of technological change, and be willing to adapt to current industrial innovations, to challenge mindsets, and eschew solutions that may be too traditional or promoted by not well-meaning international experts.
F C McLean