The Worldwatch Institute in its recently published “Jamaica Sustainable Energy Roadmap – Pathways to an Affordable, Reliable, Low-Emission Electricity System” revealed that Jamaica has a tremendous solar potential with global horizontal irradiance(or GHI) ranging from 5 to 7 kWh per square meter per day (kWh/m2/day) throughout most of the country. According to the Institute some parts of Jamaica have an even higher GHI, reaching up to 8 kWh/m2/day. To put things in perspective, Germany, which has nearly half of the world’s installed solar PV capacity, has very few locations with a GHI above 3.5 kWh/m2/day.
Resource assessment carried out at seven zones: St. Ann’s Bay Hospital, Montego Bay convention center, the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica building, the Soapberry wastewater treatment plant, the Scientific Research Council building, the Trade Winds Citrus company site, and Wigton Windfarm to demonstrate the potential for decentralized solar PV systems at the sites. The results are shown below.
As seen in the chart the seven zones assessed have very strong solar resources by global standards, even during the winter months at the weakest sites, the country’s monthly average GHI exceeds that of Germany. Although the resource peaks during the summer months in both countries, Jamaica’s solar potential varies significantly less throughout the year. Monthly mean GHI varies across all zones throughout the year. It is highest from April to August, remains relatively high in March and September, and dips throughout the rest of the year.
During the course of the day, GHI peaks in the early a afternoon throughout the year, typically highest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and peaking between 12 noon and 1 p.m. The peak hourly mean in all zones is consistently more than three times the daily mean. The long-term annual mean GHI (1997–2012) for the seven zones ranges from 5.01 to 5.50 kWh/m2/day (213.8 to 229.3 W/m2); by comparison, the long-term annual mean GHI in Germany (1981–2010) is 2.88 kWh/m2/day (120 W/m2), just over half the level of Jamaica’s zones.
Despite the tremendous potential, Jamaica has very limited installed solar energy capacity. The exact level of installed solar PV capacity is unknown but minor. To date, solar PV has been used only for a few specific applications in the country, including rural electrification, street lighting, and some stand-alone generation. Jamaica Broilers, the largest poultry producer in the Caribbean, completed installation of 600 kW of solar PV panels across 40 of its chicken houses in 2013—one of the country’s largest solar projects to date.