Solar energy could power Cayman

The Cayman Islands could meet all its power needs through renewable energy within the next five years, an industry advocate has claimed. 

Jim Knapp, managing director of Endless Energy (Cayman) Limited, believes Grand Cayman could meet demand through renewable energy and cites real world examples of larger systems than Cayman’s utility to prove it. 

He accepts it would take ‘significant investment’ to bring suitable storage and smart-grid technology to the Island to realise this vision.  

But he believes the costs of financing such investment would still be cheaper than shelling out on fossil fuels and the long-term benefits would be immeasurable. 

He said the consistent availability of direct sunlight and the relatively small size of the Island make it the ideal place to showcase renewable energy. 

And he cited systems in Texas and China that already used industrial-sized batteries to deliver electricity to similar sized power grids to Cayman (140-156MW) as proof that it can be done. 

Mr. Knapp, who powers his own home entirely through renewable energy sources, said the means were already there for Cayman’s residents to install solar technology and wipe out their CUC bills almost entirely.  

He argued that residents investing in solar could cut one of the biggest expenses – their electricity bills – without breaking the bank to refit their homes. 

“There is financing available for this. At the most basic level if your loan repayments are less than your electricity bill, you are already saving money.” 

He said the solar systems typically lasted at least 25 years, meaning that once the installation costs were paid off, electricity expenses were eradicated completely. 

He said a 10KW residential solar energy system – enough to meet 100 per cent of electricity needs for most homeowners – cost around $45,000 to install. A 5KW system costs around $25,000. 

Endless Energy works with businesses to help them utilise renewable energy to cut costs. The company designed a solar car park – utilising panels on the top of roofed parking spaces – for the Caledonian group. 

It’s a model, Mr. Knapp believes, could have been used to help provide the 36MW of power that are about to be added to the national grid. The contract to provide that power was won after a competitive tender process by DECCO, which will build new diesel-powered generators. 

“For every bit of new power generation that government goes out to bid for, a fixed percentage should be from renewable sources. 

“36MW is not an insignificant task but there is space out there. There are a huge number of parking lots in Cayman where this type of system could be utilised.” 

With 12 hours of solid sunshine a day, Mr. Knapp believes Cayman can become a world leader in renewable energy, if it gets the right support. 

“The resource potential here is enormous. Cayman could be a model for the world. We are a small enough place that we could showcase renewable energy and smart grid technology. 

“There is a significant investment that needs to be made to accomplish utility grade renewable energy using storage and smart grid technology in Cayman but the investment is financeable and would cost the residents of Cayman significantly less than current and future fossil fuel generated electricity.” 

On a smaller scale Caledonian reports that it has cut the cost of doing business by investing in energy efficiency. 

Steve Sokohl, chief financial officer at Caledonian, told the Compass an internal redesign and a new energy policy had cut 30 per cent off its electricity bills. He hopes the solar car park will reduce costs even further. 

“We looked at the amount of money we were paying to CUC and decided that was money we would rather be paying to our employees,” he said. 

The Lighthouse Point eco-tourism and dive resort is another Caymanian business that already uses green technology. 

The resort, which features nine condominiums and a dive shop, meets the bulk of its energy expenses through an array of solar panels. 

Nancy Easterbrook, co-owner of the business, said it made financial sense as well as benefitting the environment. 

She said: “There is a payback financially and we are reducing our carbon footprint at the same time. Cayman has an opportunity to be a world-wide leader in the use of alternative energy.” 

Ms Easterbrook said a net-metering system, which allows people to reduce their consumption costs by using renewable energy supplies like wind and solar to feed the CUC grid and then being able to take it back when needed, would make using renewable energy even more cost-effective for businesses and homeowners. 


  1. Before the throngs of nay sayers chime in today I thought I’d make two comments. First is that we do not use 12 hours of sunshine per day in our calculations for solar systems in Cayman. We use 5.9 which is an annual average. Second is that virtually all investor owned utilities (IOUs) like CUC have been put on notice by the Edison Institute that distributed and even home power plants (the size of a refrigerator) will soon be ending their run of profitability. They will do anything they can to stop this onslaught of technology but much the same as Kodak used to own the film market – the new entrants to the power generation market using renewables are changing the energy landscape. Old regulated pricing structures guaranteeing profits or profitability will no longer suffice when renewable sources of energy have hit lower pricing than fossil fuels. We are there now.

  2. Another advantage is that it creates a distributed system without a single point of failure.
    We have already had examples of mechanical failures at CUC, the consequences to the power grid were not too bad in those instances. what if the failure was more significant? In that instance the consequences would be very different depending on whether the public have been allowed to buy into this technology.

    Even the Shetty hospital is suffering the regulations preventing it from being all solar.

  3. CUC is going to fight this at every turn, they will only agree with it if they are getting something out of it like their offer to connect people with solar panel to the CUC grid and then sell them the power that they already created. It’s high time Cayman had other options for the power monopoly that is CUC There should be no law against generating your own power and going off the grid, it should be the home owners choice. These regulations are just feeding the CUC monopoly. Why are none of the political hopefuls taking about this..?

  4. Kodak was cannibalized due to upward technology and I don’t think sunlight technology is an upward too. Imagine highest sunlight temperature on earth is only 160F while coal burning temperature at 700F to 1000F. In comparison the home oven temperature average at 350F to 500F maximum.

  5. Solar is all over the caribbean so why not Cayman? I dont understand my people. We only for something is somebody we think is educated or wealthy says it but let it be the ordinary man.

  6. On an individual basis, the payoff is good if you have 45,000 to pay. However on a wide scale it becomes problematic due to energy provision during non-daylight hours and hurricanes. We live on a flat rock, opposed to many other islands. What happens when a storm comes through and damages the solar systems in place and there’s not enough remaining generator power to live on as it’s been replaced with solar panels? Also I’m sure adding a solar system to individual homes would increase insurance costs, if you could even get it. There are advantages and disadvantages, but one thing I’m certain of is it wouldn’t be a good idea to totally replace our existing power grid with solar without extremely thorough studies. Somehow I don’t believe a statement from a solar industry advocate counts.

  7. Just wanted to add to the Zero Emmisions debate – people often condemn solar as impractical because of something that occurs daily – Nighttime!

    So solar power systems need to be able to store the power, smaller systems use batteries but there is a much more commercially scaleable solution which is the hydrogen fuel cell. During the day excess power is used to make hydrogen from e.g. seawater – at night this can be turned back into electricity.

    I know there is a Canadian Company who can supply modular 1Mw units off the shelf and 36 of those would produce the same as the new Decco plant.

    You would also need the solar panels to generate that and a conservative figure is 0.8Mw per acre.

    I did a quick calculation and assuming 330 cars per acre (a 2.5m x 4.8m space per car) and I remember somebody quoting 30,000 cars on Cayman.

    Gives over 90 Acres of car parking on Cayman, which if shaded by solar panels (Oooo, getting into a cool car), would yield 72 Mw of generation capacity or TWICE the Decco plant, or about two thirds of CUC’s highest ever recorded demand!

    There was a victorian technology called the Stirling Hot Air Engine which could generate power and given some of the hollow promises made by so called green politicians, I think we have an unlimited power source there too LOL

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