GEA Solar Farm moves Lethem closer to 100% cleaner renewable energy
By Danielle Swain
Lethem residents in Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) will benefit from roughly 25 per cent of the power generated by a 1.0 MW solar farm as early as May 2022 and when two hydropower plants come on stream, the border town will serve as a model for other communities.
The solar farm will reduce the need for about 3,000 of the 12,000 barrels of diesel annually by the Lethem Power Company – diesel that is transported all the way from the coastal capital city, Georgetown, in the north of Guyana.
Resident and Chairman of the Board, Rodger King, says the installation means “reliable power” for “one of the fastest-growing towns” in Guyana.
The PV solar farm, located behind the Lethem Power Company comes under Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) 2030. This will see solar farms for Bartica, Mahdia and Leguan.
Funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), it is part of a greater renewable energy programme managed by the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) to push energy diversity while increasing energy security and access for hinterland/rural areas.
During a recent site visit, Dr Mahender Sharma, CEO of the GEA said “the Lethem Programme also includes two hydropower stations: the rehabilitation of the Moco Moco plant, increasing it from 500 kW to 700 kW and the construction of a new hydro facility to generate 1.5 kW of electricity at Kumu.
“In the near future, once those projects are all working together,” said Dr Sharma, “Lethem will be 100% renewable energy powered, with diesel sets only serving as a backup in the event one of those systems go out or if the demand increases to such an extent.”
Further, Dr Sharma said Lethem, as the first area earmarked to be 100% renewable energy, will represent a model for the rest of Guyana and a learning opportunity for the government and GEA.
GEA Energy Engineer, Kenny Samaroo, explained that the solar farm, installed by Farfan & Mendes Ltd. and SOVENTIX Caribbean S.R.L, is designed to “work hand in hand with the power company” and will “supplement and not replace the energy required by Lethem” and surrounding villages.
As a result, “initially it will not reduce the cost of electricity”, King cautioned. However, the Chairman of the Lethem Power Company Board believes that once the other renewable projects come on stream “I’m sure there will be a reduction.”
King believes reliable electricity will spur small and large business growth alike in the southern border town and Region 9 as a whole, all while reducing noise pollution from generators and dependence on diesel fuel.