The solar panels installed at Nelson Island

Nelson Island is now the home of Trinidad and Tobago’s largest independent, off-grid solar system with its own desalination plant.

With these installations, the National Trust has now made the island a sustainable eco-development.

The island ran up exorbitant costs through diesel and water shipments over the years, running on shipped portable water and diesel fuel for a generator. After a $390,000 investment, Nelson Island can supply power and water without reliance on the mainland.

The need for power stemmed from the years of restoration of the heritage site, allowing buildings to be inhabited yet again and facilitating tours.

According to Kumi De Souza, Head of Facilities at the National Trust, “It is a heritage site, and it is a facility used for tours by the National Trust. We bring like 300 to 400 school children at times with the water taxi (pre-COVID-19) and to facilitate that, to facilitate anything in 2020, you need electricity.”

The solar panel system will power the island’s lights, security cameras, appliances, communications, and the water distribution system, including the new desalination plant.

Nelson Island can now produce 1,000 gallons per day, pumped into two storage areas, with total freshwater storage of 13,000 gallons.

De Souza noted that even with renewable energy, they continue to try their best to conserve and preserve electrical usage.

“We don’t use everything at the same time. Although our capacity might be high, our actual usage is not at full capacity. We use about 40 per cent of the system.”

This drive to sustainability and eco-development is also part of the National Trust’s larger goal.

De Souza explained, “We’re looking to have that niche market in terms of heritage tourism, but eco-heritage tourism. So that sustainable development creates a better product, which is what we are about. We are preserving our heritage, preserving our history but in a sustainable way.”

This eco-heritage tourism is being guided by the government’s 2030 initiatives in conjunction with the Ministry of Planning and Development in their efforts to meet the Paris Agreement.

Sustainability also extended to services provided to the island as it comes from within the government. Prisoners from Carrera Island Prison are transported by the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard to the island to perform all the grounds maintenance. Technicians, plumbers, engineers, and construction workers from the Ministry of Works and Transport also do the plumbing, electrical, and building work.