The Jamaican electricity sector has seen its fair share of investment in renewable energy over the last two decades or so, to the tune of approximately US$360 million to be exact.
Development to date:
Jamaica has a long history of using its indigenous renewable sources of energy to generate electricity. This dates back as far as 1955 when the Upper White River hydroelectric power plant was inaugurated. The recent thrust to incorporate other forms of indigenous renewable sources of energy into the country’s energy mix started with the installation of a 225 kW wind turbine in 1996 at the Munro College campus, in St. Elizabeth, some fifty years later.
The success of the Munro installation led to the development of the country’s first commercial wind farm in 2004, the 20.7 MW Wigton I plant located in the neighbouring parish of Manchester. The plant had its fair share of issues, ranging from technical to financial, but the experience gained led to an 18 MW expansion in 2010, dubbed as Wigton II. In 2010 the utility company, the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) Company, also completed its first wind farm, a 3 MW plant located in close proximity to the Munro campus.
The publishing of the country’s national energy policy in 2009 and it’s draft renewable energy policy in 2010 prompted the development of several renewable energy projects. The first was a 7.2 MW expansion of JPS’s Maggotty hydroelectric plant in 2014. Then in 2016, the country witnessed the largest commissioning of renewable energy plants in a single year, closing out the year with a whopping total of 80 MW. This consisted of the 24 MW expansion of the Wigton Wind Farm (Wigton III), the 36 MW privately owned Wind Farm in St. Elizabeth, and the 20 MW Solar Farm in Clarendon, also privately owned.
A near term outlook:
The next renewable energy project on the horizon is the 33.1 MW Eight Rivers Solar Farm in Paradise Park, Westmoreland. In 2015, this project was selected by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) from a list of 19 bids, received in response to a request for proposal (RFP) for renewable energy with capacity up to 37 MW. The privately-owned solar farm broke ground last month and is expected to be completed by December 2018 at an estimated cost of US$48.7 million dollars.
Once completed this solar farm will be the second, but largest, solar installation on the island and it will feed electricity into the JPS grid at US$0.0854 per kWh. At this feed in rate, which is less than half that of the other solar farm on the island, this project has proven that renewable energy projects can rival conventional generation and it sets a new price ceiling for future renewable energy projects in Jamaica.
Though the potential for wind energy on the island has not yet been exhausted, the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), the parent company of Wigton Windfarms Ltd, is seeking to quantify the country’s offshore wind potential. The PCJ applied for and was awarded, in October of last year, a grant from the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) to undertake a feasibility study of the island’s offshore wind potential. Preliminary work should have started during the final quarter of 2017 and the study is scheduled to last for 12 months. Should it proves feasible and leads to the development of viable offshore wind farms; it will be another first for Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.
Grid storage is also on the horizon if JPS is successful in obtaining the necessary approvals from the OUR. In May of last year, JPS sent out an RFP for the supply and installation of a 13 or 24.5 MW hybrid energy storage system. According to the light and power company, this system is required to smooth the effect of the intermittent renewable energy sources presently on the grid and also to provide other essential grid services such as frequency support, voltage support, and spinning reserve.
Dubbed as a first of its kind in the Caribbean, this energy storage system will utilize a combination of high-speed and low-speed flywheels and containerized lithium-ion batteries and is to be located at the Hunts Bay Power Plant substation. Once approved by the regulator, it is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2018 at an estimated cost of US$21 million.
The Government is currently putting together an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) with the intent to guide the development of a modern energy sector in Jamaica. The IRP is expected to establish the projected electricity demand over the next 20 year period, determine the generation capacity and technologies to be used to satisfy this demand, and to establish agreements on the transmission and distribution infrastructure to generate and deliver the needed electricity and the resulting tariffs.
The IRP, which was originally slated for completion late last year, when completed will give all stakeholders, including the investment community, a clear view of the agreed suite of medium to long term investment opportunities necessary to achieve the island’s 2030 renewable energy target of 30%.