Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Renewable energy project improving lives of St Bess residents

Published:Monday | September 19, 2016 | 9:00 AM
Dr Andrew Wheatley

When Blue Mountain Renewables (BMR) began operating its 36-megawatt wind farm in Potsdam, St Elizabeth, a few months ago, the facility became Jamaica's largest private-sector renewable energy project.

Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley, who gave the keynote address at the official opening on August 11, pointed out that the wind farm would help to diversify the country's energy matrix and ease the dependence on imported fossil fuels.

"The wind farm is expected to reduce greenhouse gases by about 66,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, roughly equivalent to taking 13,000 cars off the road," he informed.

Wheatley also applauded the relationship and assistance the company has given to the neighbouring schools, Munro College and Hampton High, as well as the treatment of farmers in St Elizabeth who were affected during the construction phase.

Principal of Hampton High Heather Murray said that she could literally see the 'wind of change' with the advent of the BMR wind project.

She bemoans the fact that nearly a quarter of her school's budget is spent on high electricity cost, money that could be spent on building a state-of-the-art science laboratory.

"BMR brings hope and we welcome them wholeheartedly. We are also excited about the efforts to go green and we are doing our part here at Hampton. Earlier this year, we swapped all fluorescent light bulbs for more environmentally friendly LED bulbs," Murray stated.

She also informed that Hampton had installed about 12 solar panels to integrate renewable energy into their electric supply. The panels, combined with small wind turbines on the campus, now provide about one-fifth of the school's energy needs, she noted.

 

TO SERVE THOUSANDS

 

The BMR Jamaica Wind project will serve thousands of customers annually. Power will be sold to the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) Company, under a 20-year power-purchase agreement. This electricity is expected to be among the lowest cost sources of power available on the JPS system.

Jamaica currently relies on oil imports to meet 90 per cent of its energy needs. This leaves the country vulnerable to fluctuating oil prices, which can make it difficult to budget and plan effectively.

To ease the dependence, the country has set a target to generate 30 per cent of its energy from local renewable sources such as hydro, wind and solar power by 2030.

President of BMR Bruce Levy said construction of the project was made easier by the cooperation of the Potsdam residents and the appreciation they showed for the work being done in their community.

"We made sure there was significant benefit to the local and wider community, with billions of dollars of direct spending and employment of hundreds of Jamaicans during construction. We say, without any fear of contradiction, that we are committed to community development," he said.

Levy informed that the wind farm was made possible through a US$62.7 million financing package, including a US$42.7 million loan from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC); a US$10 million loan from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and a US$10 million loan from the IFC-Canada Climate Change Programme. BMR Energy provided an equity investment of US$26.9 million.