GEBE – Time for a Solar Revolution by David Salomon


GEBE – Time for a Solar Revolution

By David Salomon

With all the loadshedding we’ve faced recently, it’s very unfortunate that GEBE hasn’t made any (public) strides in investing in solar. In a report I created back in June 2019, five years ago exactly (June 1st), I mentioned several options to kickstart Sint Maarten on its solar journey. Prices have only fallen since then, so it’s high time we revisit this. Not only that but I think it’s time for the people of Sint Maarten to demand it, we have to be propelled into the 21st century.

Let’s do some napkin math to show why solar is the way forward with a minimal viable solution utilizing the space that is already readily available. The total GEBE roof space available in Caybay is about 5,830 square meters divided over six buildings. Assuming 90% of that is usable, we have roughly 5,000 square meters available. The average 500-watt solar panel is about 2.5 square meters.

  • Total Roof Space Usable for Solar Panels:
    • 5,000 square meters / 2.5 square meters per panel = 2,000 panels.
  • Total Production Capacity:
    • 2,000 panels * 500 watts = 1,000,000 watts or 1 (MW)
    • 1MW * 6 sun hours * 0.7 efficiency coefficient = 4.2MW per day.
  • Tesla Megapack (or similar) Storage:
    • The Tesla Megapack is selling for roughly $1.3 million for 3.9 megawatts (MW) of storage. With close to 8 megawatts of total energy storage, dispersible as 3.8MW for two hours, two of these should suffice in dealing with peak demand and avoiding loadshedding. 
  • Cost of Solar Panels:
    • Each solar panel costs about $200.
    • 2,000 panels * $200 per panel = $400,000.
  • Total Cost:
  • Solar Panels: $400,000
  • Tesla Megapacks: 2 * $1.3 million = $2,000,000
  • SMA Sunny TriPower inverters: 40 * $3000 = $120,000
  • Total Cost: $2.6 million + $120,000 + $400,000= $3,120,000

Comparison to Diesel Engines:

The cost for the solar alternative (minus shipping and installation), including storage, comes to approximately $3.12 million. This is significantly less than the 30 million guilders (about $15.6 million USD) slated for a new diesel engine. Sure, it’s kind of comparing apples to oranges as the capacity is less but there are three additional added benefits:

  1. A shorter lead-time. 
  2. The setup is scalable. You can always add more solar panels, and battery storage.
  3. The marginal cost for each additional megawatt produced by solar is zero—the sun doesn’t charge a fuel clause—those savings can, in the long run, be passed on to the customer, putting some much-needed savings back into our pockets.

This is just a quick example of what is possible. The details and integration would, of course, need to be worked out properly. I also invite anyone to weigh in in the comment sections on their thoughts and solutions. However, for those who have any doubts, you don’t have to travel far to see solar fully functioning on and island wide level. St. Eustatius has been running off renewable energy for 50% of its needs since 2017. They partnered with SMA, so they didn’t have to go it alone and made it happen.

St. Maarten has fallen behind, and to date, no one has really been able to give a credible reason why. It’s time for us to demand it! We won’t take no for an answer. Anyone stopping progress should be held accountable. Enough is enough, the people are tired!

By David Salomon


  1. Beyond solar – which is way overdue and more cost efficient as this article points out – I would love to see some thought given to using waste incineration and or biomass (think sargassum) to electricity. This can address multiple quality of life issues for Sint Maarten. If only the parties involved have the ability and willingness to think of the future rather than the short term.

  2. What about the cost saving in Fuel?????
    I am sure the NRPB would be interested in this environmentally friendly solution.

  3. Well said. Sensible and cost effective solution. Great way to move forward in a responsible. Eco friendly manner.