Business

New homes go JPS free

Old Fort Village to use power off the grid

BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business reporter

Wednesday, August 22, 2012    

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OLD Fort Village, a gated community being developed in St Ann, will supply its power independent of the Jamaica Public Service (JPS). The housing development, comprising 10 townhouses and apartments, will be the Caribbean's first development completely powered by renewable energy sources, the developers said.

"I have been 75 per cent energy independent with solar and wind at my own home in Old Fort Bay since 2003, said Michael Drakulich, Old Fort Village's developer.

That inspired him to build an energy-independent townhouse development.

The technology has made advances in the last eight years and is now readily available. The expertise exists in Jamaica to design and install a system that will eliminate ever having to pay JPS or anyone else for electricity, Drakulich said.

The beachside development at Old Fort Bay will use an energy independent green technology. It has solar water heating and a biodigester — which treats wastewater without oxygen — but no link to the JPS grid.

It is designed to be immune to power supply problems and will mean that townhouse and apartment owners will not have to pay electricity bills.

Instead of using the JPS grid, a photovoltaic system will produce electricity for the homes. It uses solar cells, which will convert sunlight into electricity.

In order to provide electricity, these systems include equipment and a solar array, which will be mounted on the carport of the complex.

Solar systems typically include racks, mounting equipment for the solar panels, an inverter, wiring and batteries. The photovoltaic system converts direct current produced by the solar panels into alternating current, the household form of electricity, with an inverter.

The green technology to be used at the complex is designed to power equipment that will be installed by the developer. These include refrigerators, air conditioning and LED lighting designed to work with inverters.

Inverter technology uses motor control to reduce energy consumption in home appliances. Conventional appliances only switch on and off and can't make minimal power adjustments.

Four years ago, Drakulich built Mystic Mountain, a rainforest adventure trail. It is completely independent of JPS, using diesel generation combined with a hybrid battery storage/inverter system and photovoltaic panels.

"I have seen the economy and convenience of independent energy for myself," Drakulich said.

An investment of US$3.5 million ($310 million) was made in the complex, the developer said.

The site for the complex has already been cleared. The ground breaking for foundations and infrastructure is scheduled for next month. The development is to be completed by October next year.

Over 300 solar panels will be used. Damian Lyn, the electrical contractor, said these will charge a battery bank during the day, and most of the power will be produced directly from the panel. At night, the battery will supply power.

"If there should be a shortfall direct from the panel, electricity will be taken from the battery," Lyn said.

A maintenance fee for the complex has not yet been determined.

Old Fort Village comprises only 10 exclusive homes on one acre of land. Five are townhouses, four of which have three bedrooms and the others two.

Prices start at US$195,000 ($17.3 million). Half of the units have been pre sold.

Persons who make a pre-construction payment will not be subject to any price increase up to the time the Old Fort Village is completed. Hikes in prices may come as a result of changes in the exchange rate.

One two-bedroom, ground level apartment has been designed to meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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