Turning ideas into energy: Wigton on the winds of change
Leaps and bounds ahead of its Caribbean neighbours, Jamaica leads the region in technological advancements and thrusts towards renewable energy. With more than 10 per cent of the country’s current output from wind, hydro and solar power, Jamaica boasts the largest wind energy facility in the English-speaking Caribbean with room for additions in photovoltaics. Wigton Windfarm, at its current capacity of 62.7MW, through a grid-tie system with the Jamaica Public Service Company, supplies approximately 32,000 households. This number is set to grow following the company’s divestment to the private sector via its recent IPO.
Perfectly positioned in one of only a few sweet spots on the island, Wigton enjoys a consistent supply of wind both from the sea and surrounding hills. This advantage has allowed the company to blossom from its initial 20.7MW Wigton I to its now 44-wind turbine three-phase operation. In addition to its concentration on harvesting wind energy, Wigton has not only carried out extensive research and training in the area of solar power, but has implemented it into its general operations.
The company’s vision to be a catalyst for change leads to the opening of its in-house, renewable energy-training laboratory. The state-of-the-art facility has a photovoltaic (pv) roof that powers the building combined with wind energy. The pv roof is a stunning architectural feature, while it generates electricity, it demonstrates how solar panels can be the actual roof.
“The PV roof is impressive as it not only harvests sunlight to power the building. It is a sound architectural component of the building actually providing power. They are built to sustain hurricane-force winds up to Category 4 if mounted correctly, which is also part of the training we do here,” explained Sanja Simmonds, training coordinator and engineer at the facility.
Currently seeking certification for its courses in solar thermal, photovoltaics, wind power, fuel cells, concentrated solar power, energy conservation and management, small hydro and bio energy, soon Wigton will double as a certified learning institution.
“Clean energy is the future, compared to conventional power plants, the initial set-up cost is expensive. However, the maintenance cost is low.
It is easier to staff and maintain the plants and cheaper to generate than fossil fuels,” continued Simmonds.
With curricula delivered through workshops, seminars, lectures, courses and practical lab work, target groups include energy professionals and entrepreneurs, tertiary students and the general public.
Through education, training and research advancements, Wigton will continue to change ideas to energy.