Jamaican government exploring new wind power sites

The Jamaican government will be exploring 22 new wind energy sites, to add wind generated electricity to the existing Wigton Windfarm 1, and the soon to be completed US$49 million Wigton 2, in Southern Manchester.

Through an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) grant of over US$700,000, sites will be researched for their commercial viability and, if viable, they will be developed and used to offer cheaper energy production. The research process will be completed in 18 months.

"These sites have been selected from a high level map which was developed for wind intensity. But, we need to know that it is blowing at a constant rate throughout the day. That is what makes a wind site successful," explained Group Managing Director of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), Dr Ruth Potopsingh.

She told JIS News that Wigton wind farm 1 and 2 will enable the country to save over US$ 2.5 million per year, on oil imports.

"The beauty about renewable energy, especially wind power, after you have made your capital investment, you do not need to buy fuel. That is the multiply effect of the benefits that can be gained from not having to buy fuel, after you have install your renewable energy devices," she said.

Professor of Physics at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Anthony Chen, who was part of a research team engaged in developing wind energy, as they responded to the oil crisis in the 1970s, said that wind turbines have been manufactured which make wind energy economically feasible.

"When we started doing wind studies in the 1970s, it did not make much economic sense. With these massive turbines, it makes a lot of sense. You can produce electricity by wind and sell it at 20 cents (US), and still be profitable," he stated.

The current Wigton wind project will maximize wind potential and assist in meeting the renewable energy policy target of 11% by 2012, as well as offer health and environment benefits from operating clean, renewable energy facilities, as against traditional power plants.

At the recent ground breaking ceremony in Rose Hill, Manchester, for the Wigton 2 project, Minister of Energy and Mining, James Robertson, said it will save the country much hard currency and, along with the soon to be established Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project, will drive lower electricity costs.

"We will be using the new policy to drive a new Jamaica," the Minister said.

Robertson also told a recent energy forum in Kingston that the National Energy Policy would ensure that Jamaica develops a modern and efficient energy infrastructure and a diversified energy mix.

"Jamaica is improving its infrastructure, developing key policies, preparing the legal and regulatory framework and making the requisite investment in research and development to ensure that our energy and mining sectors are competitive and sustainable," he pointed out.

In 2000, the PCJ formed its renewable energy subsidiary company, Wigton Windfarm Limited, and by April, 2004, the 20.7 megawatt facility was commissioned. The plant has been operating successfully for six years, with only minor interruptions due to hurricanes.

"We have not lost our vision for seeing Jamaica transform its energy mix to one that is less petroleum dependent, to use our God given natural resources such as wind, hydro, solar, biomass and, ofcourse, wind to reduce our foreign exchange fuel related debt and address the important issue of environmental sustainability and climate change," Dr Potopsingh outlined.

The Wigton site, with wind speed averaging 8.3 metres per second over six years of measurement, fulfilled the main criteria and was chosen for the development of the windfarm.

The plant has been grid connected with underground cabling leading to a sub station on the site, which houses metering, transformer equipment and switchgrear. While the turbines generate electricity, they produce no pollutants harmful to the environment.

Wigton Windfarm Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of the PCJ, and forms part of the Government’s commitment to initiating renewable energy systems for Jamaica.