Wed | Feb 1, 2023

JPS exploring large solar facility

Published:Wednesday | August 11, 2021 | 12:05 AMSteven Jackson/Senior Business Reporter
Winsome Callum, JPS director of corporate communications and customer experience.
Winsome Callum, JPS director of corporate communications and customer experience.

Power utility Jamaica Public Service Company, JPS, is exploring the development of three solar plants with combined capacity of 100 megawatts of power. JPS is now doing an initial resource assessment and “rapid” environmental impact assessment for...

Power utility Jamaica Public Service Company, JPS, is exploring the development of three solar plants with combined capacity of 100 megawatts of power.

JPS is now doing an initial resource assessment and “rapid” environmental impact assessment for the three solar sites, and is recruiting an engineering consultant to assist with designing the project.

Solar will be a new realm for the utility, which holds the exclusive licence for operating the national electricity grid and has a monopoly on power distribution, but it already holds other renewable energy assets in wind and hydropower.

The power utility is interested in deepening its renewables footprint but also further including thermal energy generated from liquefied natural gas.

“JPS has always been interested in renewables as part of its fuel diversification strategy,” said JPS head of communications Winsome Callum.

“We are still in discussion with the Ministry of Science Energy and Technology, so no final decision has been made as yet regarding the options being explored,” she said.

JPS is seeking the engineering consultant to do detailed designs for the solar sites in preparation for a request for proposals from prospective developers of the plants, two of which will have a capacity of 25MW each, and the third 50MW.

The consultant would also oversee the work of the contractors selected to build the solar plants.

When new capacity is being added to the national grid, the developer is selected through public tender. But where JPS is merely replacing existing capacity, it can select a contractor without public tender, Callum told the Financial Gleaner.

JPS has been given a schedule by the regulator Office of Utilities Regulation for the retirement of 171MW of existing generating capacity. The utility is currently looking to replace that capacity, through different projects, one of which is the 143MW upgrade to the Hunts Bay plant in Kingston, which will be fuelled by LNG. That project, which is still in its pre-construction phase, will also be overseen by the recruited engineering consultant.

JPS is deepening its investments in renewable sources of energy in anticipation of the Jamaican Government increasing the penetration of renewables to between 30 per cent and 50 per cent.

In addition to its own investments, JPS also has power purchase agreements with four renewable energy producers that supply electricity to the grid, namely Wigton WindFarm, which has a capacity of 63MW; BMR Jamaica Wind, 36MW; Content Solar, 28MW; and Eight Rivers Energy Company, 37MW of solar power.

The JPS solar plants would eclipse Eight Rivers as the top producer of solar energy in Jamaica.

JPS owns and operates 28 generating units and also purchases power from seven independent power producers. Its assets comprise conventional thermal plants with combined capacity of 611.5MW, hydro and wind at 32.5MW; 50 substations; approximately 1,200 kilometres of transmission lines; and 20,534km of distribution lines.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com