As popular as the idea of using solar energy is in the Cayman Islands today, homeowners still have a lot of uncertainty. Having some basic knowledge will help you make informed decisions about
There are three ways to use solar in the Cayman Islands; they are commonly referred to as CORE, CORE + battery and off-grid.
CORE is most popular. It means your solar system is connected to the utility grid and you sell all of your solar power back to Caribbean Utilities Company — CUC as it’s better known — under a 25-year guaranteed contract. This provides an “offsetting” of your electricity costs, the intent being to produce as much electricity from your solar as you are using from CUC. This can result in $0 electricity bills.
CORE + battery works exactly the same way as CORE, but with the addition of the energy storage system. You store the solar power in a battery until it is full, then all the excess solar power gets sold back to CUC. When there is a power outage the battery system will continue to keep your home powered until the power comes back on. The next day it will recharge itself via the solar system.
Cost of solar systems can vary greatly and it depends largely on the quality of the system.
Off-grid systems power your home fully with solar and battery systems and do not rely on the local utility. That said, the challenge with these off-grid systems is that they are expensive, as you have to significantly oversize the system to account for those times of year when there isn’t much sunshine. This oversizing often makes fully off-grid systems economically undesirable.
Costs of solar systems can vary greatly and it depends largely on the quality of the system. A general rule of thumb on costs is to take your annual CUC bill and multiply it six to eight times. That will give you a general idea of the range of the costs for a high-quality solar system. These costs are offset by lower electricity bills for up to 25 years and tend to increase the value of the properties on which they’re installed.
Warranty considerations are important living in a hot, humid, salty environment like the Cayman Islands. The quality of your warranty directly correlates with the likely longevity of your system. “Full replacement” 25-year product warranties are the best on the market today.
Make sure your solar system is installed by trained and certified installers. Ask for references and qualifications and be sure to see the prior work they have done. Understanding these general concepts and making an informed decision are keys to getting the maximum benefit and return on your solar investment.
James Whittaker is the founder of the GreenTech Group of companies that provide renewable energy systems and design of eco-friendly LEED-certified homes in the Cayman Islands.