Reducing the carbon footprint
In the second of this two-part series in Guardian Media ongoing Cleaning Up The Mess space, Minister of Housing and the Environment Dr Roodal Moonilal, tells us that the Government’s application of solar power as renewable energy in police surveillance bays is just the start of T&T’s transition to a low carbon society.
The application of solar power as renewable energy in Police Surveillance Bays (PSB) represents the first significant undertaking of its kind on a national level. It demands considerable co-ordination, planning and collaboration among the many stakeholders for proper execution.
The project also demonstrates the Government’s commitment to the principles of the National Environmental Policy as follows:
• Respect and care for the community of life:
By promoting the principles of sustainability inherent in any application of renewable energy technology, the project aligns itself with this principle.
• Keep within the country’s carrying capacity:
Using solar-powered equipment will cause no increase in usage of fossil-fuel generated power for the surveillance bays therefore not adding to the carbon footprint of the country.
Additionally, the locations require minimal modification and will not cause any significant environmental impact.
• Empower Communities to care for their own environments:
By deploying renewable energy technology in a national project, and documenting the process and lessons learned, communities can be encouraged to engage in similar activities on a smaller scale. Communities may be guided by the knowledge gained from this pilot project, enabling them to apply them within their local environment.
The project will demonstrate the sustainable use of renewable energy in the form of solar power. Being primarily government-agency driven, this project also illustrates the leading role being assumed by various government agencies in achieving sustainable use of the nation’s resources.
This project will demonstrate practical application of renewable energy technology in a novel context, i.e. national security and road safety. The application of solar-powered technology to the areas of national security and road safety represents an unprecedented modality for integrating environmental sustainability into all country policies and programmes.
The EMA has confirmed receipt of all the solar equipment, which was procured by the contractor from its Chinese partner. Each signage unit, flashing amber light and road pavement marker is equipped with its own solar panel, charge controller, and battery.
The solar-powered street lights are installed with four solar panels, which provide the power for the street lights as well as the photovoltaic system that provides power for the surveillance cameras to be installed by Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT).
These elements operate independently of each other and from the national TTEC power grid. The solar systems, once fully charged, store enough power to operate in the absence of insulation for a minimum of three days. To date, work has progressed on six PSB locations on the Solomon Hochoy Highway, i.e. south of the Chaguanas overpass, with completion of all civil works necessary for installation of the solar infrastructure.
These six locations have also been fully equipped with the solar-powered signage, flashing amber lights, and road pavement markers. As of the writing of this article, two of these six locations have been fully outfitted with all solar equipment, inclusive of the solar street lights and photovoltaic systems.
The lessons learned in executing this project have been many and varied. A major logistical challenge in execution of this project has been the physical location of the PSBs. Since they are all on the highway medians, extreme caution must be exercised when carrying out works at each location.
Work on the medians affect both the north and southbound lanes of the highways and must be interrupted if road conditions increase the safety risk for both workers on site and motorists. The motoring public must certainly have experienced delays during the past several months while works were being carried out.
The true value of this project is perhaps its ability to demonstrate to the national community the feasibility and benefits of employing renewable energy, in this case solar power, for novel applications. The application of renewable energy technology will benefit communities and the country by: reducing our consumption of fossil fuels—and hence our carbon footprint; creating new job and investment opportunities, e.g. in renewable energy product research, development, manufacturing and repair; and reducing recurrent energy costs.
In effect, the project aims to demonstrate successful triple bottom line accounting—People, Planet, Profit—a key element of sustainable development.