Honduras solar energy plans get a boost

Oct. 5, 2011 at 6:40 AM
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TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Financially troubled and diplomatically isolated since a controversial 2009 coup, Honduras has taken a tentative step toward shedding some of its energy burden and opting for a switch from diesel to solar energy.

An $84 million project, surprisingly large for a country struggling with debt, devastating effects of political turmoil and international isolation, is intended to be a win-win situation for Honduras and Onyx Contract and Solutions, Inc., the company contracted to deliver the project within nine months.

Funding for the project comes from Villela and Villela law and lobby firm, which has its office in Roatan, Onyx said. News of the contract on the Onyx Web site makes clear the project is part of a wider plan to build support for countries seen as friends of the United States or seen to be under pressure from left-wing populist forces in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Onyx pulls no punches. Those three states appear in deep red in a sea of blue in an online graphic bearing the caption, "The high stakes struggle for power effecting (sic) neighboring U.S. allies."

Onyx reasons a better electrified and energy self-sufficient populace is less likely to revolt against the government in power or align itself with forces challenging U.S. interests in the area. It cited Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico and Panama as "current allies" that deserved help with energy independence.

Onyx Service and Solutions will build the solar power project at Roatan, Honduras.

The project will assist Honduras in becoming more self-reliant for electrical power as opposed to using imported diesel for power generation, "which comes at a very high cost," including dependence on Venezuela.

The project aims to generate 18.5 megawatts of power from 65,000 280-watt solar panels. Onyx is also in talks to increase the size of the solar power capacity up to 58 total megawatts, once the original 18.5 megawatt facility comes online.

Onyx said it has "identified a lucrative market for solar power projects in areas that use diesel produced electricity" throughout Central and Latin America and the Caribbean. The company is hopeful of new projects in Colombia, Mexico and Panama.

"Beyond the company's excitement over supplying and installing their newest products, this project also represents a move to assist a strong U.S. ally to become more self-reliant for electrical power," Onyx said.

"Currently, many nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean find themselves being squeezed by the need for power coupled with the temptation to use Venezuelan diesel for electrical generation," Onyx said.

Honduras has struggled to restore international links after a 2009 coup against President Jose Manuel Zelaya triggered a political crisis that only eased after Porfirio Lobo was elected president under the military's supervision. Despite U.S. and EU recognition, many Latin American states still don't acknowledge Lobo's presidency.

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