Tue | Sep 17, 2019

Lights On! - JPS reports fewer power outages thanks to new US$25m energy storage facility

Published:Sunday | August 25, 2019 | 12:39 AMCorey Robinson - Staff Reporter
JPS
JPS

The Jamaica Public Service (JPS) is reporting a 70 per cent decrease in the frequency of power-generation-related outages as it continues to roll out a US$25 million energy-storage facility in Hunts Bay, Kingston.

The facility is the largest hybrid storage facility in the world – using a combination of lithium battery and flywheel energy-storage systems to harness energy from primary renewable sources like the sun and wind.

In July, two of its five battery line-ups and one of three flywheel systems were officially opened, providing 9.6 megawatts of electricity to the company’s grid. The plant is to be fully operational by the end of this year, outputting a total 24.5 megawatt of energy to Jamaicans.

Winsome Callum, director of corporate communication and customer experience at the JPS, said the system would benefit all customers.

“The facility will help to reduce outages, and the storage will provide a much faster, cost-effective and environmentally friendly spinning reserve as an alternative to traditional generation reserve,” she said.

“It will allow the system to respond instantly to outages caused by primary renewable sources going offline, and be able to respond flexibly to the changes in generation demand, and the supply will result in a meaningful improvement to the customer service experience.”

Last Thursday, the multimillion-dollar flywheel system – consisting of a four-tone wheel spinning at 3,000 revs-per-minute inside a protective casing, hummed as engineers explained the company’s efforts to reduce the frequency of power outages across the island.

According to the engineers, the plant will offer major reductions in the number of power outages as well as improve the quality of the energy output, which is essential to commercial customers, including those in the frozen foods and beverages industry.

It will also help to reduce customers’ utility bills, which usually reflect operational costs of archaic alternative back-up generators.

PEAK ENERGY USAGE

“The plant will impact both the power quality and reliability, which is to ensure that customers, especially commercial customers, have a consistent power supply to satisfy their operations. That way they don’t have to deal with the intermittent outages,” explained Lincoy Small, director of system operations at the JPS.

Small explained that 50 per cent of power outages occur in the distribution phase, where power lines are affected or downed by vegetation, motor vehicle accidents, and equipment theft.

Roughly 10 per cent of power outages occur in the transmission phase, where bad weather may down or corrode power lines or may prompt the power company to execute planned or unplanned shutdowns of the system.

Small also pointed out that about 40 per cent of power outages are to do with power-generation issues, which involves the production and harvesting of renewable energy supplied to the electrical grid by sources, inclusive of solar and wind power plants.

Peak energy usage in Jamaica occurs between 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., which matches the time that solar plants reduce power generation, according to the JPS. Additionally, wind farms optimally generate power at nights but after peak periods. The energy at the new facility will be brought into play at peak periods, using power already stored.

The project followed a board discussion at the JPS in 2017 about the need for a hybrid energy storage solution in consultation with the Office of Utilities Regulation.

The addition of renewable energy to the grid is part of an energy-diversification programme that sees the JPS moving away from heavy oil and rebalancing the energy mix with natural gas as well as cleaner fuels.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com