Proposed site: ‘The Finger’ could soon feature 83,000 solar panels. *Photo by Simon Jones
Proposed site: ‘The Finger’ could soon feature 83,000 solar panels. *Photo by Simon Jones

WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 19: Plans to transform a disused stretch of airport runway into a multi-million dollar solar-powered plant have been unveiled.

The Sol Invictus project could see 83,000 panels erected on a section called ‘The Finger’ at LF Wade International Airport.

The initiative would cost between $200 and $300 million and could eliminate the need to expand Bermuda’s existing fossil fuel powered BELCO electricity plant, according to Sol Invictus founder Tim Madeiros.

He told the Bermuda Sun: “The plant has the potential to reduce peoples’ fuel bills in the long run.

“This plant would represent an important step toward Bermuda becoming environmentally and economically sustainable.

“The solar energy plant has the potential to create 200 jobs over the duration of the build.

“We have the capacity to begin building the plant tomorrow, which we think is good timing for my fellow Bermudians who are out of work.

“We expect Sol Invictus to employ 95 per cent Bermudians during the course of the build out of the plant, primarily those who are skilled in construction, and the company will be operated solely by Bermudians.”

The island’s first solar plant would produce around 44.7 gigawatt hours annually, according to Sol Invictus.

The proposed location for the plant is a 56-acre stretch of land at the airport known as ‘The Finger’.

The land is largely unused these days, although firefighters have used a small area for training purposes.

Government Environment Minister Marc Bean said the proposals were consistent with the Government’s Energy White Paper.

He added: “The idea of Bermuda’s first utility scale renewable energy plant is very exciting and the Sol Invictus plan is consistent with the objectives of the Government’s Energy White Paper.

“Energy sustainability is an issue we take very seriously on this island and we are committed to facilitating progress through private industry.”

Under the Sol Invictus project solar panels measuring around 40 inches by 60 inches would be brought in from the US and installed along the old runway. The systems would also use storage technology in the form of a battery bank to allow the integration of the energy generated by the solar panels into BELCO’s electricity grid.

Mr Madeiros added: “Our next step is to obtain endorsement from the Government for Bermuda’s first renewable energy plant – built by Bermudians, and owned and operated by Bermudians.

“We’re really excited and we can’t wait to get started.”

Last night a BELCO spokesperson said: “BELCO has stated that we consider ‘The Finger’ to be the best potential site for a large-scale solar energy installation in Bermuda.

“We would certainly support Government issuing a Request for Proposals to develop the site and would be pleased to work with the vendor that wins the contract.”

A Government spokesman added: ““This is a private project that must address a number of logistical issues in order to come to fruition.

“Some of those steps would include securing the land that they desire and obtaining the necessary operating permits.

“Those steps are the responsibility of the developer.”

*Photo supplied