In November of 2011 a solar photovoltaic (PV) energy project began construction on the roof of the “National Energy Commission” (CNE) headquarters in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. CNE is the institution responsible for overseeing the energy sector in the Dominican Republic. The solar PV energy project was completed in January 2012 with a total installed capacity of 22 kilowatts (kW) and an estimated annual generation of 35,358 kWh, around 20 percent of the building’s annual electricity consumption. The solar PV energy system is connected to the utility grid Edesur under a net metering contract. CNE is using the solar panels to help mitigate its use of electricity from traditional fossil fuel sources, such as coal, fuel oil, and diesel. The project’s main goals are to lower the headquarters’ greenhouse gas emissions and to demonstrate for others the feasibility of installing solar PV energy systems on roofs.
This project was made possible by the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americans (ECPA), which was created in 2009 in order to fund energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton invited Caribbean governments to join the ECPA Caribbean Partnership, which is administered by the Organization of American States (OAS) and is supported financially by the Department of State. In addition, Secretary Clinton announced that members will receive grants to improve renewable energy development. In 2010, Caribbean governments submitted over 20 proposals to the OAS for renewable energy development projects. The OAS awarded technical assistance to six projects in six countries. One of the six projects was for the construction of a solar PV energy system at the CNE headquarters. In addition to receiving assistance from the OAS, CNE received assistance from the Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Programme (CREDP), which is administered by the “German Society for International Cooperation” (GIZ) and is supported financially by the Austrian Development Agency. The total cost of the project was around US$ 130,000 with ECPA contributing US$ 65,000, CREDP contributing US$ 35,000, and CNE contributing US$ 30,000.
The solar panels being used at the CNE headquarters are model TE235-250 and have an efficiency of 15.2 percent. The solar panels were manufactured by a Dominican company called TENESOL Hispaniola S.R.L. Eighty-eight panels were installed over two phases, and the structure of the panels can sustain winds of up to 276 kilometers per hour (171.5 miles per hour), which is important as the Dominican Republic is in an area prone to hurricanes and strong winds. The solar panels will reduce CNE’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by about 655 tons annually. As is the case for most PV systems, the solar panels are accompanied by inverters (four 5,000 Volt-ampere), extra strength electrical cables, safety equipment, a distribution box, and an automatic solar monitor. Unlike most PV systems, there is a screen in the lobby of the building that is open to the public to show the system’s energy potential, total energy produced, and avoided CO2 emissions. The screen easily communicates the technical functions of the solar PV system and the environmental benefits it provides.
There are several future plans for increasing renewable energy and energy efficiency at CNE’s headquarters. First, CNE is considering an expansion to its current solar PV energy system by adding solar panels onto the parking lot’s roof. Second, CNE is considering a modification of its air conditioning system to improve its energy efficiency. And finally, light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs will replace fluorescent light bulbs thanks to a donation from the Taiwanese government to improve CNE’s lighting system. Currently, half of the building has been supplied with LED bulbs and the other half of the supplies are en route.
The solar PV energy project on the roof of the CNE headquarters is part of a national campaign. As the Dominican Republic continues to pursue its national renewable electricity targets of 15 percent by 2015 and 25 percent by 2025, we can expect to see more renewable energy projects. With enough national and international support through institutions and organizations like CNE, OAS, and CREDP, renewable energy will become the norm in the Dominican Republic.