“Gebe cannot serve us well; we need an alternative” – Plants, panels and palaces at alternative energy show

POSTED: 11/5/12 1:06 PM

St. Maarten – More than a dozen businesses set up displays on the parking lot of Port-de-Plaisance to participate in the first ever Windward Island Bank Alternative Energy Show.
Throughout the day many people, most of whom were business owners, visited the exhibition to educate themselves on the alternatives that are expected to reduce utility costs. Loan agents from the bank were also on hand to process the requests of people who wanted to invest in one of the conservation or energy consumption systems that were being marketed.
Proud of his solar water heater, Ian Thring of Solarhot said that “Everybody wants to save money and we have plenty of sun. This just works with the sun, so it’s a no brainer. This doesn’t use any electricity whatsoever. There is no electric pump; it just works with the water pressure.”
Thring added that he currently has over 6,000 solar water heaters in homes across the island and the alternative energy show brought him an additional 150 new clients.
“Led lights are the number one way of saving money,” Titus Randolph of Electec said.
He explained that Leds are very energy efficient as opposed to regular bulbs. “Your consumption is almost one fifth to a regular bulb. The longevity of Led bulbs is undisputed. Compact fluorescent bulbs last about 5000 hours but the Leds lasts 35000 hours.”
It appeared unusual for Obersi Xerox to be a part of the bazaar of solar panels and wind turbines but they insisted that it was worth it to make a showing at the energy show.
“All of our products that we sell are affected by electricity and we are not happy with what we are getting on the island. We have 55,000 people living here and Gebe cannot serve us well, we need an alternative.”
Cutting edge technology was also introduced at the exhibition such as the ones presented by Archyan Integrated Solutions. Its owner Peter Mazereeuw stated that if anyone wanted to make their house smart, then he was the person to come to.
“We do home automation, integrated lighting, entertainment systems, security and safety systems and all together with one remote such as your Iphone, so that you control everything from wherever you are, you just choose what you put off. It’s all energy saving because you make smart use of all of your equipment.”
These types of systems are already in several homes and on boats on the island, Mazereeuw said. And while, a smart system costs a pricey penny, Archyan Integrated Solutions counters that for its costs, the system gives added value to a home and return on investment can be seen within 1 to 5 years.
Tucked snugly away in a corner of the exhibition area was a secret waiting to be discovered. Demitrus Marlin of The Green Arch was only too excited to tell Today that earlier this year he had landed the franchise for Emmedue Baltra Advanced Building Systems and would soon be building 30 affordable homes in the Sucker Garden area
“It is a solid structure from foam, steel and concrete. This is the building of the future. It is a lighter building that is twice as strong, hurricane and earthquake proof. You also reduce construction costs by 40 percent. If you were doing construction with traditional materials it would cost you like $210,000 for a three bedroom house but with this system it cost close to $119,000 for the same house,” Marlin’s assistant Robert Walters said.
Next month the Green Arch also plans to hold a mini exhibition where models of this new type of architecture will also be on display.
Island Water World provided examples of various cisterns and unique ways of generating solar and wind energy as well as biological cleaning agents. Operations manager Erwin Rodenburg said that a solar panel goes for as low as $30.00 at Island Water World.
“Plants are the original solar power. They convert sunlight to energy and food through the process of photosynthesis,” said Bob McDonough, who manned the Greenfingers booth. He was surrounded by various plants and solar garden accents.
Quality technology had a range of solar panels on displays while the Caribbean Energy Store saw a steady stream of visitors who were impressed with the proof the store’s agents showed that GEBE bills had drastically reduced for many of its clients.
While visitors tried on biodegradable jewelry and test drove electric cars, Frico Air-conditioning offered special prices to people who purchase their inverter air-conditioning units.
The Dyhof company displayed a domestic water treatment plant.
“It is a sewerage station that would take grey water from the kitchen, bathroom or toilet, treat the water and will make it good enough to do landscaping. The magic of this is that you have no pumps inside the tank. Everything is controlled by the brain located inside of the house and everything works with air. It also knows when you are not at home and goes into vacation mode and when you return, it resumes. If you would like irrigation, we also add a second tank for that, a representative from the German company said.
On average one of these water treatment system costs around $5500.00 and we were told that there are currently 3 installed on the Dutch side and 12 on the French side already.
The president of the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association Emil Lee spent a lot of time on Saturday visiting each booth and gathering information. He told Today that it is important to keep introducing people to new ideas since technology plays a huge part in the world today.
“I think it is interesting to see what is coming up and what the opportunities are. For our members, utilities in St. Maarten are very expensive, so I think it is a great opportunity for our membership to see what the right point is to jump in. It is obviously not a one item solution since you have conservation issues and energy production issues.”
Lee added that the property that he is responsible for, the Princess Heights Boutique Hotel has already started to improvise for sustainable development.
“We are already doing a lot. We are separating the grey water from the other water that we can use for landscaping so that we reduce our processing time. In terms of insulation, we are trying to reduce the heat buildup in our units so that electricity costs are lower. We are starting to look at changing over our air-conditioning units to inverter type units to reduce consumption.”
Lee admitted though that he still was undecided on the prudency of investing in solar energy.
“I am still trying to figure out if it makes sense. We don’t have a lot of roof space and so that will take a little more time. I am still trying to get comfortable with solar panels up in a hurricane zone, I am still watching and waiting to see what makes sense. For the average man it is probably more complicated. There is a lot of money that you would have to invest to get into it. For the average man it will have to be more about changing from regular lights to LED lights, better insulation and conservation. Even for me I find the solar panels are very expensive. You are looking at two to three years before it pays off in the investment and in a tough economy to come up with the capital in the first place. So if I have a problem, the smaller man is going to have an ever tougher time. It will be just more about conservation than energy production,” Lee said.

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