Fifty-eight-year-old Barbadian Mr James Husbands leads the company considered to be the regional authority on solar water heaters. In fact, his company Solar Dynamics is considered a world leader in solar water heating technology. In 33 years, the company has done over 30,000 installations throughout the Caribbean, saving money for users but also reducing significantly the environmental impact of each household.
Solar energy is “clean”—it is not a fossil fuel and improves air quality by reducing the amount of emissions from burning such fuels. It is continually renewable and cheap to the consumer. Solar water heating is up to 33 percent cheaper than heating water by electricity and is currently reported to save Barbados over US $6.5 million in foreign exchange a year.
Mr Husbands’ company has transformed the way Barbadian and Caribbean people use solar energy as a cost effective, healthy and environmentally friendly source of alternative energy. Barbados is now rated fourth worldwide in the number of solar heaters per capita. In the evaluation of the Barbados solar water heating experience by USAID, it was reported that the country saved some 130,000 barrels of oil annually, and taxpayers saved about US $260 million because of the use of solar heaters.
The company has plants in Barbados and St Lucia and a distribution centre in Jamaica. It has agents in Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Montserrat, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tortola. International tests, including one by the Florida Solar Energy Centre, show its product outperforms similar products on the market by a wide margin. Tests show that compared to similar models by other manufacturers, Solar Dynamics’ photovoltaic panels produce the most heat, have the lowest heat loss and honour the size stated or better.
Mr Husbands founded Solar Dynamics with no prior experience in the industry and therefore engaged in a considerable amount of research, experimentation and exploration. He discovered that a flat instead of a round copper pipe retains heat better; his local manufacturing plant built the product from scratch and incorporated the consumers’ demands. He has taken the production of solar water heaters to the level where he earned the Barbados Investment Development Corporation’s Special Innovation Award. The award was in recognition of the single innovation that has had the greatest impact on the landscape of Barbados in the last 50 years. He was also awarded a Gold Crown of Merit by the Barbados Government in 1994.
He has shared his knowledge and experience with other entrepreneurs and the scientific community. He was Entrepreneur in Residence at the Business Studies Department of UWI, Cave Hill, in 1990. Mr Husbands has now embarked on a job attachment programme that places management students in Barbadian plants to the mutual benefit of both parties.
He has implemented a mentorship programme to pair retired businessmen and manufacturers with small and medium sized manufacturers. He has served on the executive of the Caribbean Solar Energy Society for almost 20 years. This is a group of academics and technologists dedicated to research and promotion of renewable energy in the Caribbean.
Mr Husbands is also director of Claytone Products, which produces clay roofing products. Clay is widely available in Barbados and clay tiles outlast common roofing products by some 88 years. Claytone was named Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean in 1997.