Sunday, April 21, 2024

BEL continues preparations to upgrade power supply in San Pedro

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Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) continues with its plans to install 10 MW of battery storage in San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, to address the increasing power demand. The electricity company is currently preparing a section of a property they own in downtown San Pedro. So far, they have cleared all vegetation (mangroves) and filled the area with material to serve as a foundation where the needed upgrades will be installed to avoid a power crisis on Ambergris Caye.
The project’s first phase is expected to be done in the first quarter of 2024. BEL’s property in San Pedro comprises 1.83 acres and is located behind BEL’s substation on the island. Even though the company has proved to be developing under permits issued by the Forest Department for ‘Mangrove alteration/selective trimming,’ many islanders, including tourists, are unhappy with BEL. This is not only for the alteration of mangroves but because the development affected an “iguana sanctuary” on private property. The mangrove clearance process displaced a large group of iguanas.
The iguana project, considered a tourist attraction in downtown San Pedro, has been managed by islander Calvin Young, who lives next to the developing property. He said BEL had communicated with him and allowed the iguana habitat to continue in a section of the property. However, over the years, the project expanded with more iguanas spreading to other parts of the private property. BEL maintains that while there was communication with Young for years, it was made clear that at some point, the company would need to access part of the property for their infrastructural upgrades.
The upgrades are happening now, and Young said BEL should have addressed the issue of the larger iguana population before altering the mangrove. He maintains that it is unfair to the wild animals he has been looking after since he started the habitat in 1998. To accommodate this problem, BEL has left an area of mangroves untouched on the property for the habitat.
On the contrary, other islanders believe the so-called iguana sanctuary should have never been allowed because it is private property. BEL would need to use it at some point to address the island’s power demands. The other point brought out is the illegal feeding of the iguanas, which as per the laws of Belize, is prohibited and punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or six months in prison. This law, in most cases, is overlooked by the authorities.
BEL has explained to the island residents the importance of this battery storage system. The 10 MW battery storage system is the first phase of a larger plan to deploy 40 MW of battery storage across the country, ensuring an uninterrupted electricity supply, even when the power demand is high. This space cleared will accommodate a mobile power generation infrastructure to house the battery storage system. The electricity company has indicated that the demand for electricity in San Pedro is growing faster than expected, peaking at a record high of 16.4 MW in 2023. As such, they hope islanders understand the need for this essential equipment on Ambergris Caye.

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