A medium-sized company from the Eifel is planning the largest solar power plant in the Caribbean and helping to put an end to the age of heavy fuel oil. Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG) supports the project.
Seven minutes. That was exactly the appointed time with the President of the Dominican Republic. Georg Schmiedel was a bit surprised about this precision timing and was even more astonished after the conversation. Because, in the end, Head of State Danilo Medina spent 45 minutes talking about solar energy with his guest from Euskirchen, North Rhine-Westphalia. ‘He was fascinated that all aspects of the supply of solar power could work out so well’, recalls Schmiedel.
This conversation took place many months ago. The relationship between the Euskirchen-based company F&S solar and the Caribbean country has developed considerably since then. In the meantime, in Monte Cristi in the Dominican Republic, F&S solar was able to connect the largest solar power plant in the Caribbean to the grid. Since June, on 200 hectares of bushland in the north-west of the country, 215,000 modules have been harvesting energy from the sun and supplying 58 megawatts to the island’s grid. F&S solar is currently preparing for the construction of a second section, which should go online in the summer of 2019 and which will increase total capacity to 116 megawatts.
F&S solar has considerable expertise in solar energy project planning. This, however, was a new step. ‘I have learnt more in the last three years than I have in a long time’, says Georg Schmiedel. The plan initially came out of a spontaneous idea, which he had had while in discussions with the current partner companies in the Caribbean. To put it into practice however, F&S solar had to adapt to local management, different decision-making processes, other time frames and another culture. By the end there was a commercially viable plan.
The Monte Cristi Solar Farm is, at the very least, helping to mitigate a serious problem for the island nation. To date, Dominicans have received the majority of their power from burning heavy fuel oil, which they still import by sea. The sun, Hispaniola Island’s natural resource, was largely untapped. Across the country the percentage of green energy was only at 5%. That is changing with the new solar power station, which will supply power to 100,000 households.
In spite of all the favourable conditions, the project was not an overnight success. ‘ DEG – Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft was a key factor in our project’, says Schmiedel. DEG experts Felix Körner and Jochen von Frowein not only advised the planners, they also established contacts and checked the project’s political, institutional and social aspects, as well as the agreement which guarantees the purchase of power from the solar farm. KfW subsidiary DEG, together with the development banks FMO (Netherlands) and BIO (Belgium), made borrowing available. This engendered considerable confidence, such that the Hamburg investor Blue Elephant Energy AG also joined the project.
DEG manager Körner reckons that it is ‘not so obvious’ that a medium-sized company from Germany should take such a step. Moreover, from Euskirchen, his client Schmiedel can monitor if everything is going well in Monte Cristi. Thanks to fast internet speeds on the Caribbean island, whether and exactly how much solar power is flowing from each of the 215,000 modules into the mains can be determined from Euskirchen.
Published on KfW Stories: Tuesday, 27 November 2018
The described project contributes to the following United Nationsʼ Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy
Close to 80 per cent of the energy produced worldwide still comes from fossil fuel sources. Burning fossil fuels also generates costs for the health system due to air pollution and costs for climate-related damages that harm the general public, not just those burning the fuel.
All United Nations member states adopted the 2030 Agenda in 2015. At its heart is a list of 17 goals for sustainable development, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our world should become a place where people are able to live in peace with each other in ways that are ecologically compatible, socially just, and economically effective.