Three years after Hurricane Dorian slammed into the Bahamas, some of the island nation’s towns are still running entirely on generators. When the Category 5 storm slammed into the Low Islands in 2019, it destroyed electrical substations and leveled critical electrical infrastructure like utility poles in a number of small islands. Much of this destruction looks much like it did then.

According SCS“Dorian’s total damage and loss is estimated at $3.4 billion. [USD].” In 2020, the gross domestic product for the entire country was $11.25 billion, which partly explains why parts of the Bahamas are still without power three years after the storm. And then there is the question of how to rebuild. What kind of investments are needed to rebuild the hurricane-ravaged infrastructure that is virtually guaranteed to be hit hard by hurricanes again – again, and again.

The Bahamas is located right in the middle of what is now called “Hurricane Alley”, a warm water region stretching between North Africa and North and Central America. The waters in this part of the Atlantic Ocean have warmed in recent decades, causing an increase in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes in the region. And as global warming continues to warm the oceans, this effect will only become more and more amplifiedposing a major threat to nations like the Bahamas.

In response to the challenge of rebuilding after the devastation of Hurricane Dorian, as well as the enormity of the challenge posed by climate change, the Bahamas decided not to rebuild the same electrical infrastructure as before. Instead, they are turning to solar-powered microgrids, which could be a boon to the country’s energy security, climate commitments and bottom line.

Around the world, microgrids are receiving increasing attention as a more resilient alternative to standard power infrastructure and operations. According to the nonprofit Center for Climate and Energy Solutions based in Arlington, Virginia, a micro-grid is a “relatively small, controllable power system consisting of one or more generating units connected to a nearby load that can be operated with or independently of the local distribution and bulk transportation system”. It is this flexibility to operate together or separately in “island mode” that makes the system so resilient to disasters. If part of a larger network is taken out of service, parts of the network that were not impacted can continue to produce power on their own.

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They are considered so stress resistant that even the US Department of Defense has looked at microgrids as a more reliable option for keeping lights on in war zones. By diversifying and decentralizing power generation and transmission, microgrids can more easily respond and adapt when part of a grid is compromised. In the Bahamas, this also means that individual microgrids can be located on higher ground, safer from hurricane damage, to maintain power to hospitals and government centers in the event of future storms. .

In the Bahamas, the transition to solar-powered microgrids doesn’t just make sense for resilience and reducing emissions, it’s also a smart economic move. “The Bahamas government spends nearly $400 million a year on imported fuel to run its power plants and passes that cost on to its citizens,” reports CBS. “They pay three to four times what people in the United States pay for electricity.” By allowing Bahamanians to create their own energy through locally installed solar panels and grids, the Bahamas is easing the financial burden of its reliance on expensive imports.

Hubert Minnis, Prime Minister of the Bahamas is determined to be a world leader in the adoption of solar microgrids. Referring to one of the nation’s southernmost islands, which was completely razed by Dorian, Minnis said: “After Ragged Island was devastated, I made a statement: let’s show the world what can be done,” Prime Minister Minnis said. “We may be small, but we can lead by example to the world.”

By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com

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