Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Wigton engineer urges energy efficiency

Published:Thursday | March 9, 2017 | 3:00 AM
Training coordinator-engineer at Wigton WInd farm, Sanja Simmonds (left), tells the Minister of Science, Technology and Energy Dr Andrew Wheatley and Wigton Wind farm’s chairman, Dwayne Smith, about the Educational Hydroelectric Micro-Station, one of the many instruments at the Renewable Energy Training Laboratory at Wigton Wind farm.

WITH AN increase in oil prices an ever clear and present danger and climate change realities a threat to, in particular, small island states, such as Jamaica, improving energy efficiency is now more important than ever.

This reminder has come from Sanja Simmonds, an engineer at Wigton Wind Farm, who specialises in wind energy and hydroelectric power.

Also important, he said, is the move to have renewables form a greater percentage of Jamaica and the Caribbean's energy mix.

In the case of Jamaica, the energy policy aims for 20 per cent while the goal for the Caribbean Community is 47 per cent by 2027.

"Jamaica, take a look around and see what is happening. Currently the price of oil is a low price, which is around US$50 a barrel. But it was also cheap in the 1970s and in the 2000s before the crisis happened. So it is important to understand that the push and drive in renewables is something we should take seriously," Simmonds told The Gleaner.

Wigton, he noted, is dong its part beyond even the most recent and now year-old expansion that sees it supplying 62.7 megawatts of electricity to the national grid.

"If you look at our training facility at Rose Hill, our roof is 50/50 half of it collects rainwater and we use that water in the building for all purposes because we treat it. The other half aids in powering the building (as) it is a photovoltaic roof," he said.

"We also recycle our old plastic bottles. We push renewables and sustainable energy as far as possible. It is one of the ways you can secure your country's energy future," Simmonds added.

For him, improving energy efficiency comes first before the installation of technology such as photovoltaics.

"A lot of times companies are not energy efficient. Before you have the technology, you have to have energy efficiency," he said pointing to the need for energy audits some of which have been carried out by the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica in some schools islandwide.

"It is pointless you put in any type of renewable energy system and you are not energy efficient. So do your energy audits and see what you can fix first. After you are efficient, then you look at the technology and see what is feasible or suitable," noted Simmonds, who is also the training coordinator at Wigton.

Phase one of the Wigton Wind Farm was commissioned in 2004 when 20.7 megawatts of electricity was brought online. Phase two followed later with an additional 18 megawatts and then, only last year, another 24 megawatts.

The farm currently extracts energy from wind using three types of wind turbines the Neg Micon (NM52-900 KW) out of the Netherlands, the V80-2.0MW developed by Danish manufacturers Vestas and the other - G80-2.0MW - developed by Spanish manufacturers Gamesa, who handled the third phase of the most recent expansion.

Climate change, meanwhile, presents a variety of threats, among them warmer global temperatures fuelled by increasing greenhouse gas emissions from human consumption of fossil fuels such as oil.

Regionally, as globally, actors from the scientific community have urged a move to renewables as one essential response measure.

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