Norway to fund mega solar farms in Guyana

Bert Wilkinson | 6/13/2019, 10:57 a.m.

Norway’s government has approved grant aid worth $80 million to help the largest Caribbean Community nation build a number of mega solar farms to provide energy to several communities located near the jungle close to the borders with Venezuela and Brazil, officials have said.

The money is coming from a 2009 agreement between the two nations that paid Guyana grant aid worth US$250 million to maintain its standing stock of Amazonian rainforests as the country’s contribution to reduce the world’s carbon footprint. The $80 million is part of that sum and was earmarked for an abandoned hydroelectricity scheme that officials are no longer pursuing because of technical and other faults.

Infrastructure Minister David Patterson said the money from Norway’s climate mitigation ministry comes as the country tries to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels in spite of the fact that it will more than likely become an oil producer by the end of this year or early next year following the discovery of massive quantities of oil and gas in 2015.

Back in 2015, U.S. supermajor ExxonMobil discovered large quantities of oil and gas offshore Guyana, derisking a basin that the U.S. Geological Surveys had long and confidently predicted had held more than 15 billion barrels of proven oil reserves and large quantities of gas. Actual production is set to begin before year-end and by 2025, Guyana would be producing up to 750,000 barrels of oil daily, making it easily the largest producer in the region, ahead of Trinidad, Suriname and Barbados. Oil and gas will also push aside revenue from gold, bauxite, rice, sugar, timber and other exports as the largest foreign exchange earner.

The money is part of a remaining portion of $250 million that Norway had decided to grant to Guyana in exchange for preservation of its standing Amazonian rainforest and as its contribution to climate change mitigation efforts around the world.

Patterson said the plan is to build “at least 30 megawatts of solar power” in several communities in north and southwestern Guyana in the coming months as Norway has signaled it is impressed with local efforts to convert the country to a green state. “That is a significant boost for the company Guyana Power and Light company,” the minister said. The plants will be built close to facilities owned by the state power utility to allow for easy connection to regional grids and eventually would be tied into the national grid. Authorities have already earmarked several townships as areas that will be totally transformed by green energy and policies. The national plan is to creep up as close as possible to 100 percent renewable energy production in less than a decade.

In the Caribbean Community, the countries with the largest stock of standing rain forests include Guyana, neighboring Suriname and Belize to the north in Central America. These three are the only mainland countries in the bloc of 15 nations and are by far larger than the string of relatively small, tiny islands that make up the regional integration movement.

Funding in the past 10 years from Norway has already led to solar electricity to dozens of native Amerindian communities and the provision of internet services for the very first time. The energy farms are slated to produce an average of about 100 megawatts each.