- Damion Mitchell photo
Phillip Paulwell, Minister of Commerce, Science and Technology greets students of the Rose Hill Basic School in South Manchester on Tuesday. Mr. Paulwell was on a tour of the Wigton Wind Farm when the children, accompanied by their principal Joan Blake, visited the site.
Damion Mitchell, Staff Reporter
PHILLIP PAULWELL, Minister of Commerce, Science and Technology, said Tuesday that the Wigton Wind Farm in Wigton, south Manchester, had been completed on time and within budget.
The facility was completed five months ahead of its projected August, 2004 completion date at a cost of $1.5 billion (US$25 million), and will be commissioned in June, the Minister said.
"With the rise in oil prices and the consequent increase in the price of energy and (with) Jamaica being 90 per cent dependent on imported fossil fuel (to be converted into energy), we are very much excited about the prospects of wind," he said.
Mr. Paulwell and Dr. Jean Dixon, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Science and Technology, accompanied by Wesley McLeod, general manager of Wigton Wind Farm Ltd., were touring the facility.
The Technology Minister told reporters that for the current testing phase, the Wind Farm was producing about seven megawatts of electricity but this amount would be later increased to 20.7 megawatts or just about one-tenth of the national demand for energy over the next five years.
According to Mr. Paulwell, the energy produced at the facility would be sold to the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo.) at US 5 cents per kilowatt hour. "This is quite good when compared to the other means of generating electricity in Jamaica," the Technology Minister said.
The construction of the Wigton Wind Farm Ltd., a subsidiary of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), was funded through a grant from the Netherlands Government and direct financing from the National Commercial Bank (NCB) as well as the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica.
Mr. Paulwell said the Government was considering a similar wind farm at Palisadoes in Kingston, and that it would also be embarking on a joint venture project with Munro College to upgrade its pioneering wind turbine, which currently produces 225 kilowatts of electricity.
He also said the Government would be investing in other forms of renewable energy such as hydro electricity.
Already there is a project under way in Laughlands, St. Ann, which will generate just about one megawatt of energy and this should be completed in a few months time.
Mr. McLeod, the general manager of the Wigton Wind Farm, told reporters that the facility was sited at the most suitable location on the island, as indicated by a 1996/97 wind data analysis. The south Manchester facility comprises 23 turbines towering 161 feet above ground, and a computerised control room, and currently employs seven persons.
However, Mr. McLeod said there was the potential for more employment when the plant begins to generate maximum electricity.
In the meantime, residents of Rose Hill, a community adjoining Wigton where the plant is located, are excited about the energy project.
"This is very good, it is providing employment," said Elnora Shand, 40.
And Joan Blake, 49, principal of the Rose Hill Basic School, told The Gleaner, "It will benefit the community because it will bring in tourist and so on."
Mr. Paulwell has confirmed that the PCJ intends to market the wind farm as an attraction where guided tours will be provided for visitors, including students and south coast tourists.