Guyana hitting major milestones with solar power projects – GEA Head

  • Kiana Wilburg
  • June 12, 2024
  • Articles

Even as Guyanese authorities accelerate oil production offshore, strategic steps are being taken to diversify the nation’s energy mix. According to the Head of the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA), Dr. Mahender Sharma, Guyana is already hitting major milestones in replacing diesel with solar power through various projects country wide.

During his interview on the Energy Perspectives Podcast – powered by the Guyana Energy Conference and Supply Chain Expo – Dr. Sharma explained that the GEA, a semi-autonomous body, has been working with the government to implement an ambitious renewable energy programme.

In this regard, he highlighted the progress made on a project geared towards distributing 30,000 Solar Home Energy Systems to Hinterland and Riverine communities.

“We signed the contract for this project in November 2022We went through four iterations (of the design) to make those units rugged enough so that persons can install them as an almost do-it-yourself type of feature.

“We then moved this to manufacturing in India and then they packed forty 40 ft containers in 2023. In 2023 as well, we distributed more than 28,000 units…To date, 29,416 units have been distributed,” Dr Sharma explained.

The official said that the Solar Home Systems are outfitted with a 160-Watt panel, two lights, a fan, and an ability to charge mobile devices.

Complementary to this initiative, he said, is a project that entails the installation of mini-solar grids across the country. Dr. Sharma explained these solar mini grids are 35 to 50 kW systems.

Thus far, 31 solar mini grids have been installed, with 21 commissioned last year.

“The impact has been quite significant because there are schools, health centers, and community buildings that didn’t have electricity before…We saw a doctor in Orealla, for example, who was extremely grateful for having electricity at night… they were able to do things that they couldn’t do normally.”

Dr. Sharma was also pleased to share the impact of solar mini grids on schools, which can now provide televised teaching programmes from the Learning Channel.

“Students are now able to operate a computer, print documents, things we often take for granted on the coast…So we have seen significant impact,” Dr. Sharma shared.

He also disclosed the progress being made with the installation of solar farms which range from .6 to 1.5MW. In August 2022, the GEA commissioned its first mega scale solar farm at Lethem which carries 1MW and since its commissioning, Dr. Sharma said it has displaced more than 3,400 drums of diesel.

He noted also that a 1.5MW solar farm was installed at Bartica, displacing 2200 drums of diesel. Dr. Sharma said another solar farm is set for commissioning at Mahdia soon.

For the remainder of 2024, the solar power agenda includes a .75MW solar farm at Wakenaam, a .6 MW solar farm at Leguan, and a 1.2MW solar farm for the Mazaruni Prison. The GEA will also be working with the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) on solar installations totalling 1.2MW at eight water treatment plants. Additionally, 50 public and community buildings will be outfitted with solar panels.

Dr. Sharma said these efforts will no doubt build upon the milestones already achieved in just three short years. For 2020, he noted that the GEA had 5.35 megawatts of solar installed in the country and by the end of 2023, that went up to 14.62MW.

“Overall, I am personally very proud of what that means for us as a nation and I feel very proud to be part of that development for us,” Dr Sharma said.