On July 29, Unite BVI provided a $362,000 grant to H. Lavity Stoutt Community College to provide scholarships for students to participate in a planned solar technician training programme, according to acting HLSCC President Dr. Richard Georges.
Spearheaded by the Power52 Foundation, a United States-based non-profit organisation that helps at-risk individuals find employment in the solar sector, the programme has not yet begun, but many interested residents are financially strapped, Dr. Georges said in a WhatsApp message on July 31.
According to figures from the Department of Labour and Workforce Development, at least 49 unemployed and underemployed people who previously signed up for the territory’s “1,000 Jobs in 1,000 Days” initiative are interested in the programme, Dr. Georges said.
As of early last week, a total of 117 residents had expressed interest, a figure that “includes a number of licensed electrical contractors” and is likely growing, Dr. Georges said.
He added that need-based financial aid will be made available to paying students.
Many of the details regarding scholarship disbursement have not been hashed out, as the coronavirus pandemic has delayed the beginning of classes and the selection committee for the solar programme is still being established, Dr. Georges said.
However, the membership and structure of that committee will be similar to the process used for HLSCC’s marine professional training, which is also partially supported by Unite BVI, he explained.
“The grant provided by Unite BVI covers from 2020 to 2022, and we are likely to welcome additional partners to ensure access to the training for BVIslanders,” Dr. Georges added.
And while the college has yet to pin down a programme start date, officials are planning on starting with an online theory course for a select group of applicants, he said.
“But the programme proper, including the practical hands-on training … depends on when we can get our facilitators on the ground,” Dr. Georges said.
Power52 officials announced in January, alongside Dr. Georges and BVI Electricity Corporation General Manager Leroy Abraham, that they had inked a memorandum of understanding with the college to setup a programme that would fast-track students to sit for a test to become certified solar technicians.
More recently, the foundation’s private-sector counterpart, Power52 Energy Solutions, was awarded a contract last month to build a two-megawatt hybrid solar and battery system in Anegada.
The firm bid alongside four other contenders: Advanced Solar Products, an American company that partnered with VI firms aTec and Creque’s Engineering Services as well as BMR Energy, which is under the Virgin Group umbrella; Canadian solar companies Virtual Engineers and Tugliq; and MAN-HEG, which has headquarters in Mexico and the US.
The HLSCC training programme will be administered by the Power52 Foundation, while the Anegada project will be undertaken by Power52 Energy Solutions, officials have said.
Due to the uncertainties surrounding Covid-19, it is unclear when Power52 will begin construction on Anegada, though even after selecting the firm to build the solar array, the BVIEC was still deciding how the project would be financed, Mr. Abraham said.