Solar Energy in Jamaica – Questions and Answers
by Deon Clarke | Associate Writer
We all know Jamaica to be the land of wood and water, but it is also the land of sunshine
, and lots of it! Tourists from all over the world come here to get their fill of the very warm sunshine. There’s nothing like a “Jamaican tan”, is there? I must admit, the heat from the sun can get sweltering hot at times so “warm” can be an understatement. But how else do we take advantage of this marvellous year-round sunshine? How else do we utilize the power of the sun? For decades Jamaicans have struggled with extremely high electricity bills which, in recent times have caused us to start looking into other sources of energy. Solar energy has become quite popular as a result. So, let’s take a look at some questions and answers about solar energy in Jamaica.What is the Main Energy Source in Jamaica?
Electricity is the main source of power in Jamaica and is mostly generated by steam from oil-burning plants or non-renewable generators using petroleum products. About 93% is from fossil fuels, 4% from hydropower, while the rest is from other sources.Does Jamaica Use Solar Energy?
The answer to this question is a resounding yes!!! Solar energy has become increasingly popular among businesses and a few householders in Jamaica. One of the objectives of Jamaica’s “Vision 2030”
, the 25-year National Development Plan, is the diversification of Jamaica’s energy supply in an attempt to increase energy security as well as to have a more efficient and cost-effective energy sector.
After the approval of the National Energy Policy, the relevant authorities set out to create a regulatory and technical framework for the interconnection of solar PV systems to the national grid in consultation with the grid operator - The Jamaica Public Service (JPS).
This resulted in the formulation of a Standard Offer Contract for the sale of electricity to the grid under a net billing arrangement. Under this arrangement, any electricity that was not consumed on the premises where it is produced is sent to the grid where it is purchased by the grid operator at a price that is set by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR). However, any electricity that is consumed from the grid is billed at the regular retail prices and at the end of the month, the difference between the delivered and consumed amounts are settled. More information on the net billing prices and arrangements can be found on the OUR’s website.
Of course, you will find that several persons who use solar energy in Jamaica also operate off-grid. Others also use solar-powered appliances and devices such as solar water heaters (one of the first uses of solar energy in Jamaica, coming with newer NHT houses), phone chargers, light bulbs, fans, etc.Where is Solar Energy Found in Jamaica?
As mentioned before, solar energy is used by a number of businesses and households. However, you will find farms, churches, schools and some other Government organizations that also use solar right across the length and breadth of Jamaica. Additionally, a US $61 million solar electricity plant, being built in Content District, Clarendon will seek to power over 20,000 Jamaican homes with clean and affordable, renewable energy.How Many Solar Power Companies Are In Jamaica?
It is not clear as to the exact number of companies that provide solar energy solutions in Jamaica but I can tell you that there are at least 20 including, ATL, Solar Buzz, Radiant Energy Ltd, Burton Steer Energy Solutions, Green Lantan Energy Ltd. and Omstar Jamaica
.What Is the Cost of Solar Energy in Jamaica?
The startup cost of solar energy in Jamaica is still very expensive but it should be considered as a long term investment as it really does work out to be more economical than using electricity. Here is an example of costing from Green Lantan Energy Ltd as seen on their website: https://solarspecialistja.com/
What Are the Benefits Of Solar Energy?
- 2KW off-grid Solar Package - $1,650,000 JMD (includes (6) 325W mono panels, Conext SW4048 48V 4000W 110/220V Inverter/charger, Outback FM80 MPPT Charge Controller, 10KWh energy capacity Lithium Battery, Lightning Protection System, Digital Auto Transfer Switch & Complete installation.
Approximate savings from electricity bill - $12,500 monthly
- 4KW off-grid Solar Package - $2,000,000 JMD (includes (12) 325W mono panels, Conext SW4048 48V 4000W 110/220V Inverter/charger, Outback FM80 MPPT Charge Controller, 10KWh energy capacity Lithium Battery, Lightning Protection System, Digital Auto Transfer Switch & Complete installation.
Approximate savings from electricity bill - $25,000 monthly
- 7.6 KW off-grid Solar Package - $3,400,000 JMD (includes (24) 325W mono panels, Conext XW6848-PRO 48V 6800W 110/220V Inverter/charger, Outback FM80 MPPT Charge Controllers, 20KWh energy capacity Lithium Battery, Lightning Protection System, Digital Auto Transfer Switch & complete installation.
Approximate savings from electricity bill - $50,000 monthly
- 11.5 KW off-grid Solar Package - $5,100,000 JMD (includes (36) 325W mono panels, 13.6KW inverter (2) Conext XW6848-PRO 48V 6800W 110/220V Inverter/charger, Outback FM80 MPPT Charge Controllers, 30KWh energy capacity Lithium Battery, Lightning Protection System, Digital Auto Transfer Switch & complete installation.
Approximate savings from electricity bill - $65,500 monthly
- 15.6 KW off-grid Solar Package - $5,700,000 JMD (includes 48) 325W mono panels, 13.6KW inverter (2) Conext XW6848-PRO 48V 6800W 110/220V Inverter/charger, Outback FM80 MPPT Charge Controllers, 30KWh energy capacity Lithium Battery, Lightning Protection System, Digital Auto Transfer Switch & complete installation.
Approximate savings from electricity bill - $100,000 monthly
What are the Disadvantages of Solar Energy?
- Solar power is a great alternative to traditional sources of power as it has a lower carbon (environmental) footprint
- It offers a great return on investment as it is more cost-effective in the long term.
- It requires lower maintenance
- Economic Opportunity - it produces economic opportunities by creating jobs for people working in the industry
- High startup costs - While the solar system works out to be more cost-effective in the end, the initial costs to fund the project can be quite expensive. As such, it isn't an option for the average Jamaican, who does not have that much disposable income.
- Intermittent Power Supply – Solar power systems function great during sunny days and summer months, but during rainy days and in the winter, they have difficulty producing the same level of power. This might prove to be an issue during the rainy periods and hurricane season.
- Solar power generation that is not off-grid is dependent on an AC source of power. As such the energy needs to be connected to the grid or collected and stored for use during the evening by using batteries.
- Batteries can significantly increase the cost of a solar energy system, they require occasional maintenance, and also requires a dedicated space in your home for safe storage.
- Home Space Requirements - It is important to consider the space required for solar energy systems. Your home should have adequate roof space and be free from obstructions such as shade from nearby trees.
- If the roof is not suitable for the installation of the panels, a ground-mounted system can be considered but checks would have to be made to see if any special approval is required plus these systems are more expensive to install as the wiring has to run underground. You may also be required to have security fencing in place.
Jamaica is ideally suited for using renewable energy sources such as wind and solar with its generous amount of sunshine day after day. I look at my solar fan, camera system and lights and I see a solar revolution a few years from now. Jamaica has great potential and is poised to take renewable energy sources such as solar to the next level. What’s your take on it? The next time you take a look at your light bill, you might just start checking out your solar options. I dare say, renewable energy is the way forward!
I also recommend you read How to Apply for Electricity in Jamaica
- Solar power in Jamaica, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_Jamaica
- THE ADVANTAGES & DISADVANTAGES OF SOLAR ENERGY, https://empowerenergysolar.ca/the-advantages-disadvantages-of-solar-energy/
- 6 Renewable Energy Entrepreneurs Lighting Up Jamaica, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesellsmoor/2019/02/07/jamaican-renewable-energy-entrepreneurs