GPL seeking proposals for solar farms to supplement power

In keeping with the Government’s stated goal to move Guyana in the renewable energy direction, the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) is seeking proposals for persons to construct solar farms that will provide additional power to the grid.

GPL Deputy CEO Samaroo Ramtahal

This was revealed by GPL’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Samaroo Ramtahal, in an interview with this publication. According to the Deputy CEO, GPL currently has Requests for Proposals (RFPs) out in the Essequibo Islands.
“As far as the solar project, there are some projects we have on stream at Leguan and Wakenaam. We do have RFPs out to do solar farms there, to supplement the diesel fuel we’re using now,” Ramtahal explained.
The Government already uses a solar farm at Mabaruma to generate power to nearby Region One communities. The $227 million Mabaruma solar farm, which was started since 2017 and was long inoperable, only became operational recently.
Ramtahal explained that when it comes to power generation, it’s always recommended to have an energy mix. That mix, Ramtahal further explained, should incorporate both baseload and peak load.
“With generation overall, you want to have a mix. You have baseload and peak load. By international standards, we tend to have a mix. Amaila could be one of the potential mixes. We could have solar. Wind,” he said.
The Government has been working to build GPL’s capacity to generate power using renewable energy, with the ongoing construction of a 46-megawatt, dual firepower plant at its Garden of Eden location by Finnish company Wartsila.
It is expected that when commissioned, the engines will be capable of using both Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) and the natural gas being piped in from offshore Guyana. April 2021 has been cited as the completion date for this particular project.
Asked about whether more of these projects are likely to become necessary, Ramtahal replied in the affirmative. However, he cautioned that the total amount of natural gas available offshore Guyana is still unclear and this measurement is important when planning future gas to shore projects.
“As far as gas is concerned, we’re not sure what capacity (there is) because we’re still doing investigations. I’m not sure what capacity of natural gas we’ll be able to access, once we have the pipe onshore.”
“But if we’re getting enough capacity to expand on the 200 megawatts, I’m hoping it’ll be much more cost-effective and cheaper. But once we have that information at that time, GPL will contemplate on more such gas to power engines,” Ramtahal added.
GPL, which has in the past been plagued with sporadic periods of unreliability, heavily relies on HFO. This is despite the advice of industry experts who have long recommended Guyana integrate renewable energy into its power grid.
The Amaila Falls Hydro Project (AFHP), a brainchild of the previous People’s Progressive Party (PPP) which would have done just that, was shelved soon after the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government came to office. The lack of investors was cited.
PPP has contended that the AFHP could have been generating about 50 per cent more electricity than the entire GPL supply. Indeed, the 165-megawatt project has the potential to eclipse GPL’s current supply of 120 megawatts.
Prime Minister Mark Phillips, who has responsibility for energy, has however said that the Government intends to complete the AFHP. In the meantime, the Government is also forging ahead with its gas to shore project which will generate close to 200-megawatts.
In an effort to further push the gas to shore initiative, the Government had stipulated stiff fines and penalties against flaring of excess natural gas in the Payara Licence it granted to Exxon – something which Exxon has been flagged for doing before in the Stabroek Block.
Exxon itself has said that the gas that would be required for the gas-to-shore project is available. Estimates have put the figure required for the gas-to-shore project at 30 to 35 million cubic feet of natural gas.
Previously released data from Norwegian research company Rystad Energy on Guyana had indicated that a little less than 20 per cent of the 1.8 billion Barrels of Oil Equivalent (BOE) discovered last year was gas. The Haimara discovery made by Exxon last year was found to have 207 feet of high-quality gas condensate sandstone reservoirs. (G3)