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Jamaican engineer tops energy innovation contest for Caribbean

Published:Saturday | September 22, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Eaton Haughton, one of the winners in the 2012 IDEAS Energy Innovation contest for innovative proposals to promote sustainable energy technologies in the Caribbean.-PHOTO BY CARL GILCHRIST

Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer

OCHO RIOS, St Ann:ST ANN engineer Eaton Haughton, who for several years served as managing director of Econergy Engineering Services, pioneered the provision of energy services in Jamaica and the Caribbean, has emerged a winner of the 2012 IDEAS Energy Innovation contest for proposals to promote sustainable energy technologies in the Caribbean.

Haughton is actually one of eight Caribbean entrants, including two others from Jamaica who, as winners, now qualify for grants to develop the projects submitted in the contest.

"My project is an energy efficient hybrid solar agro-products drying technology, utilising alternative energy, renewable energy and liquid desiccant technology," Haughton explained in a recent Gleaner interview.

"It will utilise a minimal amount of energy taken from the grid and will utilise used automobile oil for the heating energy source," Haughton added.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Country Office, Jamaica, hosted the launch of the 2012 IDEAS Energy Innovation contest for the Caribbean in April, inviting applicants from 15 Caribbean countries for awards of up to US$200,000 for projects and enterprises that promote energy efficiency and access to renewable energy in the Caribbean region.

The contest was funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development, Global Village Energy Partnership, the IDB and the South Korean government.

eight ideas to be funded

About 180 entries were received for the contest with eight ideas being accepted to be funded.

"I feel extremely fortunate, and it couldn't come at a better time in terms of the financial support for an effort that has been going on for about 15 years," Haughton confessed.

He added: "I've had two fires, a lot of financial losses that have brought me pretty close to bankruptcy, but I decided that I'd hang on and implement the project. The aid has come at about the time when anyone would give up, because I didn't have funds to support it any longer. Although I know that it is financially viable, taking the first step to get the finance was never easy. So it happened at an ideal time."

Having won the grant, work is to begin at the Seville Trade Training Centre in St Ann's Bay, located near Marcus Garvey Technical High School. Recipients are given a two-year period to implement their project, but Haughton said solar equipment and other necessary equipment are being ordered and operation of the facility could begin in another two months.

Haughton said the project is expected to make a significant impact on agro-processing, especially as it relates to drying. It will enable the drying of agriculture products of just about any type and has the potential to boost agro-processing locally. Already, plans are being made to begin working with farmers in St Ann and St Mary who may need such services.

"We also hope to replicate the processing facility that we have in mind across the island and also for export to at least the Caribbean region," Haughton added.