Young boy filling out worksheet
A student records the efficiency of different wavelengths of light in relation to solar energy as part of the Plug-in-the-Sun workshop. | Photo Credit: Justin Jeffers/Islandology Media

USAID Grantee Empowers Youth to Power Barbados

By Jamie Schoshinski

Barbados is a climate leader in the Caribbean with a bold goal of getting to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. Achieving this transformation will require action from all levels of society. Blue Circle Energy, a grantee of the USAID Climate Finance for Development Accelerator’s Caribbean Climate Investment Program (CCIP), is working with young people to help Barbados reach its energy and climate targets. 

Blue Circle Energy is a Barbados-based renewable energy developer focused on solar energy. It develops solar photovoltaics systems, which it calls Community Solar Gardens, to power communities across the island. These are no “mega-projects,” which can have negative natural, community, and grid impacts; the focus is on small, community-based systems. Blue Circle Energy believes community members should have a financial and educational relationship with the gardens so they help not just the planet but also the local community. 

Blue Circle Energy is in the process of developing around 50 projects, 13 of which are shovel-ready. With the new grant from CCIP, the organization plans to develop 16 battery projects that will be co-located with community solar gardens already in development. However, Barbados’ energy grid is full, meaning the community solar gardens cannot be connected yet—and pointing to why Blue Circle Energy’s plan to use the CCIP grant to create battery storage systems is so important. While waiting for availability on the grid, Blue Circle Energy is promoting the development of solar energy in a different way: by empowering young people. 

Earlier this year, Blue Circle Energy partnered with Relay Education to hold workshops at eight primary schools on the island to build awareness about the importance of solar energy. Rather than dry lessons, these workshops included experiments and other interactive activities. In some of the workshops, students built and raced solar-powered cars. The importance of renewable energy and information about climate change were woven throughout the curriculum, ensuring students learned while they had fun. 

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Students race the solar cars they built in a solar design challenge workshop.

When Blue Circle Energy’s community solar gardens are operational, local schools will benefit from both a financial and educational relationship with them.  Each community solar garden will provide a grant to a local school, such that the profit generated by the solar garden will fund the annual renewable energy education programming. In addition, many young people leave Barbados in search of employment. Building a thriving renewable energy industry on the island will create good jobs and give young people the opportunity to stay and invest in their community. 

“The hope is these workshops will build awareness of climate change and renewable energy and jumpstart young people’s interest in the field. Investment in the renewable energy industry presents an important opportunity for youth on the island,” explained Alison Goudy, Blue Circle Energy’s Director of Finance and Operations.

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Instructor leaning over table with youth sitting at it to demonstrate how to connect model
A workshop facilitator demonstrates how to connect a model-size DC motor to solar panels to convert light energy into electrical energy.

Over the next few months, Blue Circle Energy and Relay Education plan to continue investing in youth education through energy summer camps in development with Barbados’ Ministry of Energy and Business. For secondary school students, Blue Circle Energy offers an annual scholarship that provides financial support for Barbadian students to pursue a post-secondary education in environmental or renewable energy design or engineering at a Canadian university or college. In the future, the organization also plans to offer summer internships to scholarship recipients, thereby providing on-the-job training opportunities. 

Distributed generation systems present an opportunity for energy democratization. Small-scale generation like community solar gardens can help communities financially and be an education tool in a way that large plants often cannot. Barbados can be a center of excellence for renewable energy, not only by developing these projects but also by building a trained and dedicated workforce who can work on projects on their own island as well as across the Caribbean region. However, this success relies on investments in Barbadian youth who are the future of the country.

For more information on Blue Circle Energy and Relay Education's workshops watch this video

Country
Barbados
Strategic Objective
Integration, Mitigation
Topics
Emissions, Inclusive Development, Education, Energy, Clean or Renewable Energy, Grid Integration, Microgrids, Gender and Social Inclusion, Green Jobs, Locally-Led Development, Youth
Region
Latin America & Caribbean

Jamie Schoshinski

Jamie Schoshinski is a Program Associate with Environmental Incentives, primarily supporting USAID’s Advancing Capacity for the Environment (ACE) project as a Climatelinks Content and Social Media Manager. Jamie has a Master’s in Environmental Policy from American University and a BA in English and Political Science from Temple University. 

 

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