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Salaah: Piarco solar panel system must not be ‘one-off’ in T&T’s move towards renewable energy

“[…] According to an article in Renewable Energy World, ‘there are about 217 days of sunshine a year in the Caribbean’—making countries in our region ideal for using and investing in renewable energy. 

“[…] For instance, when there is disruption or interruption in electricity, traffic lights on our nation’s highways and major intersections cause massive traffic congestion. Wouldn’t it be better if we were to change from the conventional power source and to use clean energy as an alternative? […]”

This Letter to the Editor on the installation of a solar panel system at the Piarco International Airport was submitted by Salaah Inniss, an environmental professional.

Image: Planet Earth is grappling with global warming.

It was a welcomed sight to see the government’s direction when it comes to renewable energy. The European Union has agreed to the installation of a commercial scale solar panel system at Piarco International Airport.  

This project is by no means surprising since Trinidad and Tobago is a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement.

It is also no secret that on a global scale the strategy for mitigating climate change is to cut back on non-renewable resources like petroleum, diesel, coal and natural gas, and to move to clean energy from natural resources such as solar, wind, hydro and geothermal.

While we expect Trinidad and Tobago to be more advanced than some of our Caribbean neighbours like Barbados and Guadeloupe when it comes to shifting to renewable energy sources, it is better late than never. Trinidad and Tobago is gradually moving towards this goal, and following most developed countries by embarking on an initiative to transition and shifting to clean energy sources as a solution for dealing with global warming and climate change.

Environmental scientists believe that if governments worldwide don’t transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy, we would experience extreme temperatures—which is currently happening in Europe and the USA, sea-level rising, polar melting, heavy precipitation, category 4-5 hurricanes and other dangerous climate impacts globally—and, in short, we will face devastating consequences.

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago Government turns the soil for a commercial-scale solar farm at the Piarco International Airport on 26 July 2022.
(Copyright Ministry of Planning)

I hope this project is not a one-off and that the Planning and Development Ministry will start accelerating projects, small or large, where we can use our natural resources as a means of advancing and adapting to more sustainable power-generating ventures. For instance, when there is disruption or interruption in electricity, traffic lights on our nation’s highways and major intersections cause massive traffic congestion.

Wouldn’t it be better if we were to change from the conventional power source and to use clean energy as an alternative?

In places like Costa Rica, they use solar-panel charged batteries to allow key intersections on their highways to continue working in the event of electrical cuts or blackouts and these solar-powered traffic lights represent savings in electricity over traditional traffic lights.

Photo: Solar panels.
(Copyright Revision Energy)

Sun and even wind are abundant and plentiful in our coastal rural areas and can be used to generate electricity for people in those communities, or to power government-owned buildings and facilities such as hospitals and health centres.

According to an article in Renewable Energy World, “there are about 217 days of sunshine a year in the Caribbean”—making countries in our region ideal for using and investing in renewable energy. 

In the Caribbean, energy-efficient practices constitute one of the main pillars to reduce energy consumption. The others are to improve energy efficiency and further access to renewable energy resources, and clean and energy-efficient “smart” green technologies, which are of major importance for sustainable development efforts, including climate action.

Raising awareness in the schools, and by extension to citizens, should be an ongoing national advertising campaign by the Ministry of Planning, with the aim to support social, environmental and economic transformation on energy efficiency and for citizens to understand the benefit and importance of using these renewable energy sources.

Image: A depiction of the threat of global warming.

The Ministry must ensure that citizens are knowledgeable about projects such as the solar panel system at Piarco International Airport, so that they are prepared to accept the changes.

The question would always be one of cost. Citizens have a right to know that, if they are to make changes like switching from gasoline or diesel to electric, it would be cost-effective. The alternatives must be convenient, reliable, and relatively inexpensive.

So while I’m elated to see this project to use renewable energy—solar, in this instance—there are other infinite renewable energy sources such as water [hydro] and wind, which are prominent energy sources for generating electricity. 

If the government is on the path of gradually moving away from non-renewable energy, then it will stamp our commitment, as a carbon-producing country, to reduce greenhouse gases and move further away from fossil fuel dependency and embrace clean energy sources as an alternative to protect our natural world.

About Salaah Inniss

Salaah Inniss
Salaah Inniss is an ardent writer with an enthusiasm for bringing insightful views on national issues. He graduated from Cipriani College in Environmental Management, and is presently working in the Integrated Facilities Building Service Industry. He is an empathetic supporter of conservation and the protection of the environment.

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One comment

  1. Salaah
    i enjoyed reading your article.

    let’s hope that we maintain this solar installation when it is completed.

    maybe you could highlight in your future articles the dire need we have to implement a regfundable deposit program for all disposable beverage plastic, tetrapak and other similar containers.
    These ” convenience ” packages are continuing to destroy our natural environment and recently the BBC reported that micro plastics were found in Antarctic snow.
    This means that we are now drinking micro plastics in our water. We have to stop the flow of these materials into our seas. The consumer has to be incentivised by a refundable deposit of one dollar to return the container to the point of purchase.
    The companies who make and distribute such products must be required to put in place a recycling program to deal with their ” convenience ” packages that are destroying our environment.

    Many thanks