Let there be LEDs

Let there be LEDs

BY NEKIESHA REID Business reporter

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

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THE country could save about half of what it spends to import LED lights if it made its own, according to Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) registrar Mark Broomfield.

Jamaica is fully capable of producing much of its own technology and should be encouraged to do so, Broomfield said at the University of Technology's Sustainable Energy Conference and Exposition last Thursday

"Almost a year after the launch of its Green Energy Project — a partnership with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) — the institute is working with local company Solar and Fire Protection Services Limited (SFPS) to train its inner-city students to make the lights.

The Green Energy Project trained 16 youths from Tivoli Gardens and Spanish Town to make wind turbines using 50-gallon drums as well as how to build solar stills to produce drinkable water.

Apart from saving money, manufacturing LED lights is a good way to create jobs, said SFPS's CEO, Frederick Whyte.

But Jamaica tends to depend on imports instead of producing its own goods, said CMI's head of engineering, Peter McCarthy.

Part of this comes from the attitude of consumers, said Whyte.

"We tend to think locally made products are inferior but that is not the case," he said.

"People abroad don't know more than us," he said, "yet they are the ones getting the big contracts."

"We want to see how we can change that for the future," McCarthy said. "The only way to grow a country is by making things".

The school will focus on manufacturing streetlights and household lights initially. But Broomfield said it would begin to look into making LED lights for cars and other purposes in future.

The manufacturing of LED lights is part of the CMI's mandate to expand application of the "green sector".

Last year, the tertiary institution helped the fisher folk of Pedro Cays by building a solar-powered ice freezer to produce 100 pounds of ice per day to keep their catch fresh.

But while recognising the need for energy-saving technology, McCarthy said the average Jamaican cannot afford it.

"We've been looking at how to create low-cost technology that the average person can afford," he said.

Broomfield said the school is negotiating funding for its LED light project.

In the meantime, SFPS will provide the materials needed to train the students at the CMI facility.

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