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Renewable Energy

Being a ‘green’ island

There is one forecast of which you can already be sure: someday renewable energy will be the only way for people to satisfy their energy needs.{b}

St Helena is moving forward with the use of renewable energy

SEE ALSO: Our page on Recycling and the related subject of Endemic Species.

Our current renewable energy sources

Our earliest renewable energy source was the wind turbine electricity generators on Deadwood Plain. The original three turbines, installed in or around the year 2000, were expanded to six in October 2009 and since April 2014 have been expanded to twelve. Together they generate around 2MWh of electricity - around 18% of the island’s total need. Figures issued in May 2015 by the supplier of the island’s wind turbines, Wind Energy Solutions, gave the total energy generated to date by these turbines as 6,317,527kWh, resulting in a CO² saving of 6,747,118kg.

In addition, since May 2012 electricity-generating solar cells are being installed on government buildings and those of the island’s power generator Connect Saint Helena Ltd.. The aim is to produce a further 1% of the island’s electricity through these. Plans are also in hand to build dedicated ‘Solar Farms’ at specific sites across the island (one is already operating), selected such that the panels will collect energy without impacting the scenery of St Helena (see project update panel, below). Subject to satisfactory testing it is also envisaged that similar units could be made available to domestic users. Solar cells only generate power during the daylight hours but as heating is not a major issue in St Helena (the temperature rarely falls below comfortable levels) a significant contribution can still be made.

SHELCO Logo

The original plans for the ‘Wirebird Hills’ resort, to be built by SHELCO in Broad Bottom envisaged a possible Ocean thermal energy conversion solution to generating the complex’s electricity needs. Whether SHELCO’s new owners will continue these plans is not known.

Charts illustrating growing generation from renewable sources, from Connect Saint Helena
Chart illustrating growing generation from renewable sources, from Connect Saint Helena Ltd.

Electricity generation, 2017
Electricity generation, 2017{c}

In the 2016 Census only two homes were reported as being totally powered by renewable energy sources, both of them by photovoltaic solar energy. You can see the 2017 figures (right).

Energy saving measures

St Helena households and businesses have also adopted a wide range of energy saving measures, driven perhaps by the very high cost of electricity on the island (in 2014 it was up to £0.42p per KwH, depending on consumption). Double-glazing is, however, uncommon on St Helena - it is rarely cold.

In 2021 45.1% of houses were equipped with solar water heating panels{d}, and energy-saving light bulbs are widely available, often at subsidised prices (SHG provided all households with some free energy saving light bulbs in 2010, funded by DFID). Two houses had solar electricity generation in 2016.

In 2022 the Environment, Natural Resources & Planning (ENRP) Building at Scotland, St Pauls was fully upgraded for energy saving, not just with solar electricity panels but also light wells to funnel sunlight to the darker corners of the building.

If you are interested in reducing your electricity usage, Connect Saint Helena Ltd. has produced some advice leaflets (the tips they contain apply everywhere, not just on St Helena).

Progress towards 100% renewable energy…

In September 2014 it was reported that By this time next year St Helena will very probably have achieved a target which is considerably higher than the same target both the UK and the European Union [EU] hope to achieve by 2020. Right now, St Helena has already hit the UK/EU target for 2020 and the long term aim is to keep hitting targets way above whatever the UK/EU can hope to achieve. This particular target is the amount of electricity generated by renewable energy. In fact, the following press release was issued by Connect Saint Helena Ltd. in July 2015:

Renewable Energy Record Broken

June 2015 saw a massive 33.4% of the islands electricity being generated by renewable energy. The solar farm was brought on line and now complements the wind turbines on Deadwood Plain. 33.4% last month equates to a saving of 73,000 litres of diesel fuel which is enough to fill the fuel tanks of half the island’s registered vehicles!

You can access data about the energy generated from the ‘farm’ at www.sunnyportal.com (click on ‘Publicly available PV systems’ then find St Helena).

PASH Global

In April 2018 the Government of St Helena announced it had chosen a supplier to provide a renewable energy solution for St Helena, aiming for 100% renewable electricity by 2027. After lengthy contract negotiations it was announced on 29th May 2020 that an agreement had been signed with PASH Global. Under the agreement, in the first instance PASH Global would be providing a full 568kWp/500kW solar farm; 2.7MW wind farm made up of three turbines; and a 3.2MWh/3.5MW Battery, together generating at least 9.133GWh per annum, 77% of the island’s 2019 energy demand (11.8GWh). However in 2021 PASH Global decided that it would prefer to invest elsewhere and withdrew from the project. At the time of writing the Government of St Helena is both looking for an alternative contractor and considering other options to deliver the desired 100% renewable solution.

Cut Your Energy Costs Day

Electricity

Set in the middle of the Northern-hemisphere Winter, Cut Your Energy Costs Day is marked on 10th January for people to think about reducing their energy usage. On St Helena the issue is rather different. 10th January is in one of our hotter months, and heating costs should not be a problem in January, but our year-round energy costs are high because the per-unit charges are some of the highest in the world, so any way to reduce energy bills is certainly worth a day’s thought.

Housewives, just think of the help electricity will give you in the home.{e}

Connect Saint Helena Ltd.

Connect Saint Helena Ltd. logo

In 2013 the Government of St Helena ‘divested’ responsibility for the island’s electricity supply & distribution, water supply & distribution and waste water collection & disposal to a limited company - Connect Saint Helena Ltd. - which it owned (and at the time of writing still owns) 100%{2}.

To ‘connect with’ Connect Saint Helena go to www.connect.co.sh. Its offices are in Seales Corner.

Read More

Below: Electricity Supply on St HelenaArticle: Tokelau islands shift to solar energy

The Electricity Supply on St Helena

Like most technologies, a public electricity supply was late arriving on St Helena.

In a mostly warm climate one of the biggest benefits of an electricity supply is the ability to keep food fresh…
In a mostly warm climate one of the biggest benefits of an electricity supply is the ability to keep food fresh…

Lighting powered by individual generators was installed at the Hospital in 1926 and at Plantation House in 1931. By the end of 1951 a rudimentary electric street lighting system for Jamestown (run, oddly, by the ‘Poor Relief Board’) had replaced the kerosene lamps installed in 1888 for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee because the kerosene ones were so poor{f}. Although people could tap into this street-lighting system (at a cost of 5s - £0.25 - per month) it was only available from 6pm to 11pm daily and was presumably insufficiently powerful to run anything other than lighting.

It is remembered that Mr Broadway set up some form of electricity supply in lower Jamestown in the late 1940s/early 1950s. It is not clear how many houses it served. The generation was driven by two Blackstone Diesels, ex military either from Mundens or Ladder Hill, based in a shed at the back of the (old) Standard bar. It is also understood that he recharged radio batteries from his facility. If you can tell us more about this system please contact us.

The first public Mains supply did not begin until September 1954, generated by Solomons at the Old Power House in Jamestown, but limited to Jamestown and The Briars only. Taken over by the Government of St Helena with effect from 1st January 1959, it was extended to Half Tree Hollow and St Pauls in 1961 and by the end of 1963 was also reaching Francis Plain and Longwood, but could not be extended further at that time due to generating capacity limitations. By the end of 1969 new generating sets had been installed and additional consumers could be connected but further generating capacity upgrades were not possible due to the space available at the Old Power House, which prevented any more expansion of the network. The conversion in the 1970s of all the island’s distribution network from 3.3KV to 11KV helped reduce transmission losses and improved the stability of the network, but could not make up for the inability to increase generating capacity. In the early 1970s demand from existing consumers was increasing at around 10% per annum.

By the early 1980s the generating capacity, 0.5MW, was becoming insufficient to meet demand, so a new Power Station was planned to increase generating capacity to 1.2MW, initially to be built at Cow Path but after review moved to Ruperts, to be built partly over a ‘disused’ enslaved burial ground (a Commission of Enquiry approved the construction). In 1982 the inability to increase generation from the Old Power House meant the Government of St Helena imposed a moratorium on new connections to the network until the new Power Station came on stream. In August 1984 consumers were warned of the possibility of ‘load shedding’ power cuts, and requested to reduce demand during peak periods (6pm to 10pm)…

The New Power Station Project was formally commissioned in August 1984 and the new (current) Power Station opened in March 1986, at which point the backlog of requested connections could be addressed and the supply could be extended to the remaining outlying areas - Levelwood, Sandy Bay and Blue Hill (in anticipation, network extension actually began in December 1984 with expected completion shortly after the new Power Station). Unfortunately the new system had many faults; four consecutive days of power cuts in 1986 caused some people to suggest that the problem was not physical but spiritual, due to the new Power Station having been built partly over a ‘disused’ enslaved burial ground. Generating capacity was doubled in 2000 and has been increased periodically since, in response to growing demand. In 2013 the Government of St Helena handed over responsibility for the electricity supply to Connect Saint Helena Ltd., a company 100% owned by the Government of St Helena, where at the time of writing it remains.

So although we had an island-wide electricity supply by the end of 1986, a reliable supply took much longer (many would say it is still awaited…).

Incidentally, in a very forward-thinking proposal Tara George wrote to the St Helena News in 1988 proposing that much of the island’s electricity could be generated by wind power, reducing the need for expensive and environmentally-damaging diesel generation. Not adopted at the time, now a considerable amount of our electricity is generated from renewable sources and as discussed above, the aim is to increase this to 100%. And if you want to know when wind generation was first proposed, the following appeared in The ‘Blue Book’ for 1899:

I believe that when the new barracks are finished it would pay a small company to erect plant for lighting Ladder Hill and the town by the electric light, worked by windmills. There is always a steady wind from the South East Trades - only 9 days were calm during the year under report.

The current(!) domestic electricity supply is 240v AC 50Hz. A 415v 50Hz three-phase supply is also available. According to the 2021 Census, 99.9% of households use electricity for lighting, 92% have a TV{3}, 91.2% have a washing machine, 90.1% have a fridge/freezer and 87.7% cook using electricity.

And finally…

Article: Tokelau islands shift to solar energy

Published on www.bbc.co.uk 7th November 2012{4}

Tokelau has become the first territory able to meet all its electricity needs with solar power, officials say. The South Pacific territory - comprising the three atolls of Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo - had been dependent on diesel to generate electricity.

Tokelau solar cells

New Zealand, which administers Tokelau, funded a $7m (£4.3m) solar project. Solar grids were constructed on the three atolls, with the last completed earlier this week.

The Tokelau Renewable Energy Project is a world first. Tokelau’s three main atolls now have enough solar capacity, on average, to meet electricity needs, New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said in a statement.

Until now, Tokelau has been 100% dependent upon diesel for electricity generation, with heavy economic and environmental costs, he added.

Project co-ordinator, and PowerSmart MD, Mike Basset-Smith said that the move represented a milestone of huge importance for Tokelau, as it would now be able to spend more on social welfare.

The remote islands of Tokelau lie between New Zealand and Hawaii.

An example for St Helena?

LOL

Credits:
{a} Chris and Sheila Hillman{b} Hermann Scheer{c} Connect Saint Helena Ltd. Report & Financial Statements, March 2017{d} 2021 Census, taken 7th February 2021.{e} Article in the St Helena Wirebird{8}, July 1960{7}{f} Governor Sterndale

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Footnotes:
{1} Previously the site of one of the Boer Pow camps.{2} A shareholding of 50% gives that shareholder effective control of an entity. So anything where the Government of St Helena owns 50% or more is, legally, part of the Government of St Helena. This principle is also supported by the United Nations when determining what is, and is not, part of ‘government’. Despite this, the Government of St Helena often claims it has no control over these ‘independent’ entities - clearly incorrect.{3} Although only 58% have a subscription for the television service, others will use it to play videos or as a computer display.{4} @@RepDis@@{5} The four ‘Wirebird’ publications should not be confused.{6} Which, like so many projects on St Helena, was delayed waiting for the necessary equipment to arrive from overseas…{7} Announcing the plan to extend the island’s electricity network outside Jamestown for the first time{6}.{8} The Government newspaper{5}.

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