Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Mystic goes solar

Published:Sunday | September 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM
One of the rides at Mystic Mountain.

Avia Collinder, Business Reporter

Max Patchen, managing director of Mystic Mountain Water Park and Mystic Ridge Hotel, says the properties' owners are planning another US$70,000 ($8 million) investment in a solar energy system to power the hotel's restaurant, meeting rooms, front office and reception areas.

The same group of owners has also just wrapped up a residential development, also in St Ann, which will be totally independent of the national grid operated by the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS).

The new townhouse complex, comprising 12 units at Old Fort Village, Mammee Bay, will open in October with a 80kW system that cost approximately US$575,000 to install. It will be selling back power to the JPS grid to offset the maintenance cost of the entire complex, Patchen said.

Cost passed on to purchasers

He said the cost of the system was passed on to purchasers in the price of their townhouses, for which payback through savings would take about 4.5 years at current JPS rates.

"This is the first wholly solar powered residential development of its type in the Caribbean," said Patchen. Two of the 12 units are not yet sold.

Mystic Ridge was formerly known as the Crane Ridge Resort, a property with 27 rooms and 20 apartments that has operated under its new identity since its winter 2012 reopening. Its new solar system is expected to realise energy savings of over $300,000 with payback expected in two years, Patchen told the Financial Gleaner.

Patchen and team have already taken the five-year-old Mystic Mountain attraction off the national grid, replacing JPS power supplies with three diesel fuel generators.

Mystic Mountain's hybrid system utilises 16 inverters to convert stored current, the managing director said.

The cost of that system, including three generators, was approximately US$450,000, which was recouped within the first three years of operation "from savings of what would have been our JPS bill," Patchen said.

Total savings have been estimated at "a minimum of $1.5 million per month in electricity charges when we subtract our fuel/maintenance costs for the generators," he said.

Patchen said Mystic's JPS electricity bills negatively impact cash flow and profits. But cost was not the only factor in the switch over to solar.

"When we built the park we knew it would be highly dependent on a reliable and steady electrical supply and we could not take any chances with having any disruption due to power outages and spikes in the supply which could have knocked out the motors in all of our rides which may have any potential of our 110,000 guests becoming stranded each year," he said. "Reliability was a major consideration."

Since the changeover, Mystic's energy costs average US$0.12 per kWh, compared to an average US$0.32 from JPS.

For Mystic Ridge, Patchen explains that the room configuration - being part of a greater pool of units that are individually owned - the solar project is restricted to central areas of the property, but will be complemented with energy savers such as LED lights, and inverter air conditioners for room units.

All three ventures - Mystic Ridge, Mystic Mountain and Old Fort - are projects of Ochi Land Holdings Limited in which local developer, Michael Drakulich, is a shareholder. His partners include companies and individuals from Canada and the United States.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com