Solar array at the Fortis TCI power station, Providenciales.

Electricity and Solar Power in the Turks and Caicos Islands

Participating commercial customer of Fortis TCI's U.O.R.E programme, Industrial Park, Providenciales.

Currently, all public electricity generation is run by Fortis TCI, a vertically integrated company which provides both power generation and distribution. Electricity is generated almost exclusively via diesel generator, and solar and renewable energy account for less than 1% of power consumed in the Turks and Caicos (2018 data). Current generation capacity is 92 MW across the country (2018 data).

Solar-derived power is increasing in popularity, with many private installations visible throughout the country. Several local companies specialize in both supply and installation of alternative energy systems.

History of Electricity Generation in the Turks and Caicos

In 1987, the Provo Power Company (P.P.C. Limited) acquired a 50-year exclusive licence to generate and distribute electricity for Providenciales, North Caicos and Middle Caicos, which expires in 2037. Separately, Atlantic Equipment and Power (AEP) acquired an exclusive licence for South Caicos which is due to expire in 2036.

For the Turks Islands of Grand Turk and Salt Cay, electricity generation was run by Turks and Caicos Utilities (TCU), a government-owned entity.

Fortis Turks and Caicos (FTCI), a subsidiary of Canadian utility holding-company Fortis Inc., acquired P.P.C and AEP in 2006, and concluded an acquisition of TCU in 2012.

Cost of Electricity

Electricity is priced via two components: ‘Electric’ which includes generation and distribution, and ‘Fuel Factor’ which varies based on global fuel prices. Rate changes apart from the fuel factor require approval by Government.

For July 2018 on Providenciales, the cost per kWh was $.43. This is composed of a $.27 ‘electric’ charge and a $.1633 'fuel factor'.

Future

Fortis TCI announced in 2017 that 1 MW of solar capacity is scheduled to be installed in the islands via the utility company, which would include a 700 kW array on North Caicos and 300 kW throughout the other islands.

Utilizing Alternative Energy (Solar Power) – Interconnected or Isolated

There are two approaches for persons wishing to install a solar array at their residence or business:

Interconnected

Participate in Fortis TCI’s Interconnect Programme

  • C.O.R.E – Customer Owned Renewable Energy allows customers to purchase their own equipment to connect to the grid. Residential customers can connect up to 10 kW of capacity, and commercial customers can connect up to 60 kW. All generated power must be fed into the grid (sold to Fortis), which pays $.07 + the current fuel factor. For July 2018, this would be an effective sell rate of $.23 per kWh, with the buy rate at $.43.
  • U.O.R.E – Utility Owned Renewable Energy allows customers to lease their roof space to Fortis TCI, which would install a solar array owned by the utility. Fortis TCI pays both a fee based on installed capacity, and an annual ‘bonus’ based on actual electricity generated via the array.

For persons interested in participating in C.O.R.E or U.O.R.E, it is highly recommended to contact Fortis TCI in advance of planning and construction. Applications will take 4-12 weeks to process.

Isolated, Independent System

Alternatively, home owners and business can install their own solar array, inverters, and storage/battery system isolated from the public electric grid.

Participating commercial customer of Fortis TCI's U.O.R.E programme, Industrial Park, Providenciales.

Government Incentives

Photovoltaic (solar) panels and some support equipment carry a 0% duty, unlike the normal 30% on most items imported into the islands. However, a 7.5% Customs Processing Fee (CPF) is payable.

There are no other direct Government subsidies or incentives. As there is no income or corporation tax in the country, there are no tax credits.

Considerations

Hurricanes

Hurricanes are the largest threat to the integrity and life of a solar array in the Turks and Caicos. Panels are commonly manufactured to withstand 140 MPH winds. The main consideration for mitigating and preventing hurricane damage is the attachment method.

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) published an April 2018 report. This noted that certain clamping methods, such as clamping panels to each other instead of independently, resulted in adjoining panels shifting when a single panel broke free, and possibly increasing panel loss and damage. Furthermore, the report highlighted a number of recommendations, including that clamps be checked annually for tightness as clamps loosened on their own.

Cloudy Days

On days with cloud cover, photovoltaic panels will produce around 10-25% of their rated output. Unfortunately, this is often correlated with hurricanes and other adverse weather conditions which may affect the grid – thus the conditions which may cause blackouts may also reduce the effectiveness of your solar installation.

This is especially important with an independent system not connected to the grid, as you may quickly deplete your batteries.

Payback Period

The payback period will likely be between 8-12 years, although this depends on a number of factors.

Due to decreasing global costs of solar components, and a lack of a Turks and Caicos centric study, it’s difficult to judge the payback period for the TCI.

A 2017 report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), part of the U.S. Department of Energy, found an average benchmark price of $3.22 per installed watt of solar energy (AC watt, taking into account conversion from DC).

Example Calculation

Note: These figures are estimates only, and are calculated from U.S. installation costs and TCI electric prices. These calculations are for general guidance only and should not be used for decision making. Components and installation will likely be higher than U.S. costs, due to a 7.5% import fee (CPF) and lack of any direct subsidies (as exists in some U.S. states). A discount rate of 3.5% is used. The buy and sell price per kWh is based on July 2018 data.

With this pricing, an array of 6 kW would cost $19,320 (6000 × 3.22). This could theoretically produce 10,296 kWh of electricity per year (6 × 1716). This is based on the PVOUT figures for Providenciales from the table below.

The cost of purchasing this electricity from Fortis TCI (based on the July 2018 kWh price) would be $4,427.28 per year (10296 × .43). This would be an average monthly electric bill of $368.94.

Selling this electricity to Fortis TCI, as a participant in their C.O.R.E programme, would net $2,368.08 per year (10296 × .23).

For those participating in C.O.R.E, the payback period would be around 9.7 years (with an annual 3.5% discount rate), depending on inflation, capital cost, variances in fuel prices, and other factors.

Offsetting the purchase price from Fortis TCI may seem lucrative, however this doesn’t factor in battery storage costs, which have shorter lifespans compared to PV panels. Implementing a battery system, which would require sheltered indoor space, would decrease the profitability of such a system.

Adding a battery system will add a significant initial cost. For example, adding 27 kWh of capacity utilizing two Tesla Powerwalls would cost an estimated $12,500 (data from Tesla, August 2018 and for U.S. customers). This would bring the cost of a 6 kW installed system, with battery backup, to $31,820. Provided that you use all power generated via the system, this would offset the purchase of power costing $4,427.28 per year. Payback would be in around 8.4 years (using a 3.5% annual discount rate), depending on a number of factors.

Important: These figures assume an equal lifespan of batteries and panels, which is not the case. Battery lifespan will vary based on a number of conditions, including usage patterns, temperature and humidity. Installing your own system will give you electricity backup in the event of grid outages, but will come at increased space requirements (sheltered indoor space), initial cost, and complexity. Depending on the lifespan of batteries, the overall cost may be higher than participating in C.O.R.E.

Solar Panel Efficency - Global Comparisons

A number of factors affect the efficiency of solar panels across locations. For example, PV panels located at higher altitudes receive more solar radiation and thus produce more power (all other things being equal). Atomospheric conditions, such as average cloud cover, also significantly impact the total output of a panel for a particular region.

The following table contains data from Global Solar Atlas. PVOUT is an estimated annual output of 1 kWp installed capacity (kWp is a standardized calculation and is the kilowatt 'peak' of a panel). GHI is Global Horizontal Irradiance and is equal to the total amount of shortwave radiation received on a horizontal surface on the ground. Diffused Horizontal Irradiance, or DIF, refers to the part of the solar irradiation scattered by the atmosphere.

Location and Solar Output

Location PVOUT GHI DIF
Atacama Region, Chile 2164 2491 429
Copper Mountain Solar Facility, Nevada 1863 2058 493
Providenciales 1716 2075 717
Perth 1715 1950 560
Miami 1617 1922 702
Houston 1462 1718 713
New York City 1421 1473 605
Toronto 1345 1391 577
London 982 1017 572
Edinburgh 873 889 541

Local Businesses

RA Shaw Designs
R.A. Shaw Designs in an award-winning single-source architecture and contracting firm based on Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. The agency’s portfolio of work includes an impressive collection of luxury villas and residences.

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