The livelihood of a fishing community in a northern district on Seychelles' main Island, Mahe, is set to improve with the installation of the country's first solar energy-powered ice plant.
The chair of the association of fishermen in the district of Bel Ombre, Peter Tirant, said that "the installation of the five-kilowatt photo voltaic (PV) panel will improve our livelihood by reducing the cost of ice, as the ice plant will now be powered by solar energy."
The new solar-powered ice plant is part of a project on how to use solar photo voltaic panels to improve the facilities of the fishermen of Bel Ombre and help enhance safety and security at what is considered the Seychelles' largest artisanal fishing port in a village community. The PV panels is expected to be up and running by end of June.
With new lighting navigating in and out of the port, as well as loading and offloading at night, will be safer and more secure. Additional lights will help reduce and deter vandalism and theft which is currently a major problem.
Through the project which is funded under the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the association is also contributing to national efforts against the effects of climate change and reducing the carbon footprint of port facilities.
"As fishing is the islands second-most important economic sector, we want to demonstrate the potential of solar PV to develop the artisanal fisheries sector, and we want other fishing communities, both artisanal and industrial, to adopt such technologies especially renewable energy technologies," said Tirant.
The installation of the solar panels was agreed last month between the Bel Ombre Fishermen Association and the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) in the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The MOU makes provision for the staff of SFA to give training on how to maintain the PV panel. The authority will also after six months conduct a cost analysis of running the PV and any savings made will go back to the fishermen.
"As SFA is already giving us some concession, we want to lessen SFA's financial burden. We hope now that they can make savings especially on electricity and money that can be used for other urgent needs such as maintenance and reparations on the plant when there is a breakdown," added Tirant.
The chair of the Bel Ombre Fishermen Association said that when the ice plant is down, the fishermen are the most affected as they cannot go out to sea and therefore cannot earn an income.
The Bel Ombre port is not only used by the district's fishermen but by others as well such as dive centres, pleasure boats, the ferry of the Silhouette Hilton Labriz Hotel and Spa.