The success of the Caribbean’s shift to sustainability depends on the people currently preparing to lead the way. These budding scientists and engineers are currently pursuing tertiary-level studies in areas such as environmental physics, power engineering, alternative energy and renewable energy technology. In order to chart the path forward, these future pioneers need hands-on experience with the technology that will enable the region to move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy resources.
As the first centre of excellence for renewable base microgrid and SMART grid training in the Northern Caribbean, the Microgrid Training Centre provides this opportunity to students, scientists and engineers from across the region and the wider world. It was constructed as a result of a financing agreement signed with the GIZ and implemented by TAPSEC with funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the European Union (EU).
Established at the Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory (DBML) of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona campus, the Microgrid Training Centre is fully-equipped to function as a teaching, research and testing centre for SMART grid photovoltaic (PV) technology. With the addition of this facility, the DMBL now is generating twice as much energy — enough to supply 100% of the facility’s power needs. The new technology also saves US$14,300 per year in energy costs and reduces the laboratory’s carbon footprint by between 90 to 100 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
While the Microgrid Training Centre directly contributes to regional climate change mitigation efforts, it also serves as a clear example of how energy independence can be achieved. With the benefit of practical experience with a functioning renewable energy facility first-hand, engineering students will be equipped to incorporate sustainability into their designs as they create the technical solutions that will move the regional energy sector forward. Researchers and scientists will also have access to the data they need to provide the guidance that will inform the policy decisions directing the regional energy transition.
The facility itself exists as a proof of concept, encouraging other organisations across the region to build their resilience by investing in renewable energy technology, and bringing the Caribbean that much closer to a future in which all CARICOM citizens can enjoy modern, clean and reliable energy services.