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WISYNCO going big on solar

Published:Wednesday | December 24, 2014 | 12:00 AM

British High Commissioner to Jamaica David Fitton has hailed, as a vote of confidence in the local economy, the WISYNCO Group Limited's decision to invest in a one-megawatt solar generation system at its industrial complex in Lake's Pen, St Catherine.

The facility, which is due for completion in April, at a cost of US$2 million, will be built with British expertise as the construction company, Padera Solar Jamaica, is a subsidiary of the United Kingdom-based Padera Solar UK, which reportedly has a good track record in building such systems in Europe.

Fitton made it clear during a signing ceremony last Friday at Lakes Pen that he was delighted with the British-Jamaican collaboration.

"It's just generally a good news story that we're happy to support," he declared.

"I think it's a great start (and) it may be the start of something bigger for Jamaica. It's a sort of vote of confidence in the economy here getting back on track and things improving. So all around it looks like win-win. It's great."

Some 250 kilowatts of the energy will be generated by way of solar panels on the warehouse roof, with another 750 kilowatts via panels on the ground, to meet one third of the plant's three-megawatt peak demand.

Andrew Mahfood, chief executive officer of WISYNCO Group Limited, said the decision was based on sound cost-benefit analyses which still made good sense, even in the face of sliding oil prices on the world market, which stood at less than US$60 a barrel last week.

"Our price of electricity this month will probably go (down from US 38-42 cents) to say, 24, US cents per kilowatt hour. When you factor in the costs of insurance and interest expense that you have to put to finance the solar, we expect our cost will be about US 16 cents for the first four and a half years," said Mahfood.


"Once that cost is paid back, your only real cost is annual maintenance, which is minimal, and probably insurance on the panels and system. So it's a great investment."

The company will only be using an estimated one eighth of the 260,000 square feet of available roof space in this first phase, with plans to ramp up to two megawatts later. However, it will not come off the national grid option. Instead, it plans to use solar directly during the day, with no investment in storage capacity, since it will revert to the Jamaica Public Service Company system at the end of each day.

Meanwhile, Benjamin Daley, managing director of Padera Solar Jamaica, said the project was timely and the partnership right for both parties and the country.

"I think renewable energy in the Caribbean is going to take off. Certainly, the price points would indicate that. The potential is here, but you need the expertise, you need the buying power to come here, and that's where we are. I think this is perfect time for us."