Posted by: nik | February 15, 2014

Energy in Barbados

I’m on a 10-day surf safari with my father in Barbados. This is a stunningly beautiful country with every modern amenity available. Air conditioning (ductless minisplits everywhere); High speed internet (obviously!); a very dependable public transportation system (I’m writing this on a bus that careens through the mountainous terrain at breakneck speeds to arrive at opposite ends of the island every hour on the hour); and clean running water and electricity (110V, 50Hz.)

Solar hot water is very common here. You will see some batch heaters (a dark colored barrel on the roof) but most of the systems here are slightly more sophisticated than that. This is a typical system that is visible from our deck and identical to the one on the house we are renting.


This is a passive open-loop convection heat storage unit.The potable water circulates through the collector and there is a convective thermosiphon loop between the collector and storage tank. No controller, no pump, no sensors to eventually fall. It just works. And it works a lot safer than the electric shower head we had in a previous house. Yikes!

Solar PV is less common, but I spotted a few silicon roofs from the airplane as we were coming in. I’m sure we will see a lot more of it in the near future since the resource is huge and the nation’s electricity is currently supplied by 3 large fossil fuel generators (natural gas and diesel fuel.) Electric rates are said to be among the highest in the Caribbean, roughly, US$ .35 cents per kWh!

Today I went to Town for supplies and sightseeing. Here are some of the sights I saw.


This building in Bridgetown has a whole wall of 8 or more ductless mini-splits with what appear to be a small flat plate solar collector connected to each. I have never seen the integrated solar collectors and I’m hoping a reader can enlighten me as to how they work. Perhaps it is also a heat pump for DHW…?

While in Bridgetown, I also visited the Queen’s Park, a lovely grassy sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the capital city. Inside the park I found a charming little building with a hip roof and solar PV facing all 4 directions!


We are at a very low latitude here (13deg N) and installers seem pretty laidback about getting ideal orientation and tilt. Unfortunately they also seem pretty laidback about wire management. I could see a tangled mess of wires drooping on the roof under the array. This would be considered totally unacceptable in an area with stricter Code enforcement. These wires will eventually chafe and short-out to the roof causing a groundfault and possible fire hazard.

In the same park was an array of 3 different solar thermal collectors in what I assume to be a field test or demonstration project comparing the different brands.


In addition to these demonstrations of technologies, there were a number of banners which were apparently part of a campaign to raise public awareness of the underlying issues.


Don't Litter


Save Water


Plant a Tree

And my personal favorite:


Cut Wastage


  1. Interesting reporting Nick. I am on the panhandle of Florida this week. I have not found recycling or any obvious attempts to conserve here. Looking forward to being home in Vt. next week. John L

    • Thanks, John! Sometimes I take things for granted. Traveling is great way to put stuff in perspective. Your description of FL reminds me of a sign we saw when visiting Cape Cod.


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