Purdue faculty will work with the University of the West Indies and Partners of the Americas to foster clean energy deployment across the Caribbean and Central America. Building on expertise at the two universities, the project will develop a solar energy demonstration site at UWI’s St. Augustine campus in Trinidad and Tobago. The U.S. State Department’s Regional Environmental Office in San Jose, Costa Rica, and the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs are funding the 18-month effort.
The demonstration site will include capabilities for long-term monitoring of system performance, and potential users also will be able to evaluate scalable approaches for solar power. Besides the initial education and training provided, the partnership will organize a regional conference on clean energy, bringing together educational, government and corporate stakeholders from the region. The conferees will consider technical, economic and policy issues related to clean energy deployment. Partners of the Americas will coordinate media activities and help disseminate findings throughout the region. “Beyond the valuable educational experiences, the goal is to foster development of the resources required for scalable clean-energy systems, the expertise to inform public policymakers, and to encourage public/private partnerships,” said Purdue’s Suresh Garimella, the principal investigator.
The Goodson Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Garimella is a senior fellow for the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas and Purdue’s associate vice president for engagement. Purdue professors David Janes, electrical and computer engineering, and William Hutzel, mechanical engineering technology, are co-investigators. Hutzel led a student team that created the solar home that earned second place in the 2011 International Solar Decathlon.
Key participants at UWI include Ricardo Clarke and Indra Haraksingh, both from the Department of Physics. Collectively, they bring expertise in using solar energy for applications such as power generation and water purification, including analysis of regional implementation and government policies. “Bill and I met with leaders in Trinidad in December and defined a demonstration site based on a solar power installation at UWI St. Augustine, with the potential to add several sites with complementary capabilities,” Janes said. “We aren’t there to develop new technology, but to explore ways to showcase how to implement it.
“Partnerships with educational institutions, government agencies, companies and nonprofits in Trinidad and Tobago and the U.S. will allow us to provide training experiences and to generate data on solar cell performance in the region. The conference, including participation from equipment and service providers in the region will help to define pathways toward broad implementation of clean energy technologies.”
Alain Norman, Regional Environmental Officer for Central America and the Caribbean at the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica, said the partnership was especially auspicious given that it involves Trinidad. This is the site of President Obama’s announcement of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) program in 2009 to promote clean energy, advance energy security, fight energy poverty, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support strategies for sustainable landscapes, and build capacity for climate change adaptation. “Trinidad is one of the most developed islands in the Caribbean,” Norman said. “Rich in oil, it also is one of the most dependent on fossil fuels and, therefore, an excellent location for this demonstration project.”
Trinidad is located just off the northeast coast of Venezuela. The University of the West Indies comprises 16 campuses in independent countries across the Caribbean. The campuses are located in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turks and Caicos. “Purdue has a long history of engagement with partners across the globe, with an enhanced focus on Central and South America,” Garimella said. “We also have considerable interest and expertise in energy and sustainability technology as well as policy. Together with these partners we hope to foster and support such efforts in the Americas.”
Other key participants in the partnership include Alana Jacque and Brandon Baron with the U.S. Embassy in Port of Spain, Trinidad; and Melissa Golladay, director of professional leadership exchanges, Partners of the Americas.