In five months, wind energy saves Jamaica $229 million

The Wigton Wind farm in Manchester produced enough energy to save the country expenditure estimated at more than $229 million on the importation of oil during the first five months of fiscal year 2011-12, according to data released by the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ).

PCJ said that during the period April to August this year, Wigton wind power, the largest such wind farm in the English-speaking Caribbean, produced a total of 46.32 million kWh of electricity. The wind energy produced was sufficient to allow the wind farm to sell power to the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) to power about 50,000 homes per month.

Production of the energy resulted in Jamaica avoiding the importation of some 27,253 barrels of oil, equivalent to US$2.67 million or J$229 million at the rate of US$98.06 per barrel, and the emission of 38,639 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the corporation said on Friday. In 2008 when the PCJ decided to expand the wind farm, it projected that it would add 55 million kilowatts to the national grid annually and reduce the petroleum import bill by US$3.2 million.

According to the PCJ, at US 10.7 cents per kilowatt-hour for energy without capacity, Wigton is the lowest-priced independent supplier of electricity to the JPS. Wigton presently owns and operates the 38.7-megawatt wind-farm complex, which represents 4.5 per cent of generating capacity installed on the national grid, and 2.6 per cent of electricity generation, the PCJ said.

The Wigton complex, sited on a 683-acre farm, consists of the 20.7-megawatt Wigton phase one, commissioned in 2004, as well as the 18- megawatt phase two, commissioned in December 2010 with 100 per cent debt financing from the PetroCaribe Development Fund. Phase one was done at a cost of US$6.7 million, while phase two, which improved on the technology used, cost US$50 million.

The wind farm is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the PCJ. Wigton’s mission is to provide and or facilitate increased electrical energy from wind power and other renewable energy sources, thereby contributing to the diversification of Jamaica’s energy mix.

Renewable energy sources

The government has linked its operations to the National Energy Policy, which proposes that by next year 11 per cent of the country’s electricity will be generated by renewable energy, 12.5 per cent by 2015 and 20 per cent by 2030.

When combined, Wigton one and Wigton two are expected to help the country avoid 59,643 barrels of oil imports, and net 84,567 tonnes of carbon dioxide emission reduction per year. Wigton Wind farm was the brainchild of Dr Raymond Wright, former group managing director of the PCJ, to facilitate increased generation of electricity from wind power and other renewable-energy sources.

Jamaica has been pursuing renewable-energy opportunities for more than 30 years, of which wind energy is just one. Among the advantages credited to wind-generated energy is that it avoids the production of harmful carbon emissions which would otherwise be produced from fossil fuel-generating plants. Apart from Manchester, areas in St Elizabeth have been identified as good locations for wind farms. So far, wind turbines have been installed in Manchester, St Ann, St Mary and Portland.