Wind Power in Jamaica

In the late 1970s the first formal wind profile study was carried out in Jamaica by Dr. Anthony A. Chen of the Physics Department of the University of the West Indies (UWI). This particular study was sponsored by USAID and formed a minor part of a more substantial programme of assessment of energy resources in Jamaica at the time.

The study concentrated on wind sites pre-selected from available meteorological data and significantly, involved sites that were all located in coastal areas. Although no site with spectacularly high wind regimes was identified the data generated was nevertheless useful.

The next notable study of wind conditions in Jamaic took place in the period 1990-95 when US Wind Power Inc., a subsidiary of Kennetech Corporation USA, formed an alliance with a Jamaican company and undertook a wind resource study. The study involved the installation of 90ft towers with anemometers and wind direction monitoring equipment. The data was collected on special chips with NRG dataloggers from which wind data was transferred, printed and interpreted.

In the mid to late 1990s the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) after forming a working alliance with Renewable Energy Systems Ltd of the UK, undertook to find possible sites with good wind regimes by driving to remote locations and inspecting the vegetation for distortions due to wind.

Commercial Wind Energy Ventures

Jamaica’s attempts to establish commercial wind power ventures have so far been limited to:

(a) The establishment of a single wind turbine at Munro College in St. Elizabeth in 1996, which continues to supply electricity to the JPSCo grid, and

(b) The present state of advanced negotiations between PCJ/Renewable Energy Systems Ltd. and the JPSCo for the installation of a 20MW wind farm at Wigton in Manchester.

The Munro College Wind Turbine Project

The project was founded by and has been pursued throughout by the Past Students Association of Munro College. Munro College is located in the parish of St. Elizabeth on one of the peaks of the Santa Cruz Mountain at an altitude of 2,500 ft. Because of its relatively flat but actually undulating terrain, it is a favourable site for capturing wind energy.

The project that culminated in the commencement of power generation in 1996, has the following features:

* The wind turbine that is at present operating is a Vestas 27- 225 kW model rated at 225kW power capacity.
* The project was funded primarily by the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ), but also include a long list of local companies and individuals.
* The total installed cost of the facility is US$300,000. However, much of the local services, such as JPSCo’s services and Alpart’s crane services, were donated free of cost.

In 1997, its best year of production so far, total energy generated amounted to 527,433 kWh.

The Proposed PCJ Wind Farm

The PCJ in an alliance with Renewable Energy Systems Ltd. of the United Kingdom (UK) is to establish a wind farm at Wigton in south Manchester, to produce and sell 20MW of electricity to the JPSCo grid. The features of the project are as follows:

* Wigton is an area of about 1000-ft above sea level but is located relatively close to the south coast in the Alligator Pond area.
* The wind regime averages 8.1 m/s or nearly one m/s above that at Munro. It is also reportedly without a significant diurnal differential, which means that almost equal amounts of power will be produced in the days and nights.
* The project will utilize 23 only 900kW NEG Micon turbines, to be manufactured in Denmark.

The Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica through its wholly owned subsidiary, Wigton Windfarm Limited has constructed a windfarm at Wigton – a small rural district in Central Manchester.

Consisting of twenty-three (23) 900-kilowatt wind turbines, the Wigton Windfarm has an estimated capacity of 20.7 Megawatts of power and is expected to supply the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) with a minimum of 7MW on average.

Wigton Windfarm Limited bas entered into a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with JPS. The property, on which the windfarm is sited, has been leased by the Company from the bauxite/alumina companies Alcoa and Alpart.

NEG Micon, a Dutch wind turbine manufacturer, has supplied the 49 metres hub height turbines, with each tower having its own low/medium voltage transformer situated inside the tower base.

The turbines have been strategically spread out over site at approximately 100 metres apart on the ridges within the area.

The siting has been verified with the aid of geological studies in order to ensure that the turbines are not sited on the part of the property which contains bauxite deposits. This is in order to allow the bauxite companies to mine the area in the future without hindrance from the windfarm or its activities.

Construction of the windfarm was completed in seven (7) months. During the construction period, the services of the U.K. based Renewable Systems Limited (RES) were employed as the project managers. RES, with offices in the U.K. and U.S.A., have been engaged in this type of activity on a worldwide basis for many years.

Based on the success of this first commercial venture in wind technology, the PCJ through its subsidiary, Wigton Windfarm Limited, in its drive to promote the use of renewable energy resources will endeavour to erect similar windfarms in other areas of the island.

Prime Minister P. J. Patterson officially opened Wigton Windfarm Limited on July 29, 2004.

Objectives of Wigton Windfarm Ltd.

Primary objectives
*Implementation of provisions of the Jamaica Energy Sector Policy regarding renewable energy resources.
*Diversification of Jamaica’s energy mix.
*Utilization of indigenous (sustainable) energy resources, especially the abundance of wind on the island.

Secondary objectives
*Import reductions (petroleum based) in view of the Balance of Trade.
*Technology transfer to Jamaica which will eventually result in local expertise and experience with a large-scale wind energy project.
*Emission reductions.

Tertiary objectives
*Environmentally friendly use of future mining land.
*Tangible and affirmative action from Jamaica as a signatory of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), regarding the reduction of greenhouse gasses.
*Educational and research spin-off for the University of the West Indies (UWI), UTech and the SRC.
*"Champion" project for the region in renewables.

The total cost of the project was US$26.2M. It was funded by a Grant from the Government of the Netherlands, PCJ’s equity and a bank loan from the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica. The grant from the Netherlands Government was used to acquire wind turbines from NEG-Micon’s subsidiary company in Holland.

Executed agreements are in place for:
– the sale of electricity generated by the wind farm to JPSCo.
– the use of land on which the wind farm will be constructed
– project management services during construction of the wind farm.

WWF has sought and obtained the necessary environmental and building approval permits required prior to construction of the wind farm. The suppliers of the wind turbines will be NEG Micon (Netherlands) and they will provide a five-year warranty on the equipment after installation.

It is expected that through the supply of wind power to the JPSCo. the nation will in effect continue to diversify its energy mix; realize savings in its annual oil bill; while providing an environmentally friendly source of energy.