This summer I am working with Small Hope Bay Lodge, a family owned dive resort in Andros, the largest island in the Bahamas. Andros is one of the less populated islands out of the 26 inhabited islands in the Bahamas (out of 700) and usually draws far fewer tourists than areas like Paradise Island. Andros offers amazing natural scenery with the Great Andros Reef, the infamous blue holes, cays, and mangroves. It also provides the majority of the freshwater used in the Bahamas and is the only island with freshwater rivers. One of the reasons the area is so well preserved is because of the historical naval presence on the island. Due to the navy testing, the area was off limits to commercial cruise lines and remains off the beaten path. I will be working with a small team to put together a solar thermal system for the resort. We will be also be looking at the feasibility of solar pv for the resort and to help offset the 192,000kwh energy use of the resort. The majority of the resort’s energy use is spent on heating water. Given its location in the Bahamas and its environmentally oriented culture, Small Hope has tremendous solar potential. They get around 250 days of sun out of the year and receive about 3.5-5kw per square meter at a latitude of 24° 42′ 0″ N. I’m excited to help bring an impactful project to fruition and not to mention dive and explore the sights that provided inspiration to Jacque Cousteau!
Arriving in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, I was only told to go to the General Aviation Center. I did as was instructed, hired a taxi and arrived at the GAC where I found colorful beach chairs lining the outside of the small white building. Locals with thick Bahamian accents filled the seats and were chatting away. I soon learned this was where the charter planes were based and what many locals take to travel to the less popular routes of the Bahamas. After a short wait for the additional passengers needed for a full flight, my pilot, Glen directed me to follow him onto the tarmac and board our small 6 person flight. This was my first time on a small personal aircraft like this and I was a bit nervous.
Contrasting my own nerves was Glen and the man in the passenger’s seat humming along to a Bahamian song while holding the door open while taxiing the runway. The takeoff itself was bumpier than the commercial flights I was used to with the occasional stomach dropping dips, yet Glen still seemed to be so relaxed. At one point on the short flight to Andros, Glen even took his hands off the controls and placed them on his head and leaned back. Although I was still anxious for arrival, I took comfort in knowing at least I wasn’t the most nervous on the flight…with each dip and pocket of turbulence we encountered, the woman behind me let out shirks and “Oh lord”. This continued until we landed in Andros where I was greeted by Jeff Birch, the owner of the resort. We sped down the bumpy pot hole filled roads in his white pickup truck passing through light pink government offices and pastel colored homes dotted with palm trees.
Finally arriving at Small Hope Bay Lodge, I was greeted by the incredible view of the sea, coconut trees, and an adorable black lab named Sassy.
I met with Jeff for a long chat about the vision for the project and to get a better bearing for the atmosphere of the lodge. I was excited to see Jeff’s commitment to sustainability and really happy to see it matched my own philosophy. Instead of only relying on technological fixes and efficiency gains, Jeff wants to go beyond the “low hanging fruit” and adopt a multipronged approach that also includes demand side management. Jeff is willing to change guest and staff behavior, and of course look to renewable energy. As a small business we are working with many financial constraints. We don’t have the option of just ordering out of the box solar water heaters and panels. Ingenuity and creativity will be keys to the success of our projects. Jeff’s dedication to creating a homemade solar water heater system for the resort is also partially driven by the desire to give the local community a easy to replicate blueprint to offset their own energy costs. The island nation of the Bahamas is largely reliant on diesel generators. The local utility Bahamas Electricity Corporation uses diesel generators, is notorious for reliability issues, and charges rates averaging around $.42 per kwh. The success of our solar water heater project will save a staggering amount on energy costs.
Sitting in the meeting was definitely different from the DC work environment I was used to…it was so strange and liberating to attend a meeting without having to stumble in on l heels! I still could not believe I was conducting a meeting sitting cross legged across from a white sandy beach and my barefoot boss dressed in a bright orange shirt made of Androsian fabric. I’m excited to see where the project lead and will be sure to keep the updates coming.