Environment

Clarendon solar farm withstands heavy rains, hurricane winds

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

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Utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) plant Content Solar is reporting that while unprecedented torrential rainfall in 2017 damaged utilities across the region and caused extensive flooding and landslides in Jamaica, including its home base of Clarendon, its plant remained unaffected.

A four-day period of severe weather conditions in May 2017 dumped 17 feet of flood water on the greater May Pen area and severely damaged bridges, roads and communities.

But, according to president and CEO of WRB Energy, Robert Blenker, Content Solar was designed, sited and constructed to withstand intense tropical storms and severe hurricane weather conditions.

“Content Solar was designed in compliance with internationally recognised standards that meet and exceed Jamaica's standards for electrical, structural and environmental requirements,” he said.

The 28-megawatt farm was developed by WRB Energy, a US-based company located in Tampa, Florida. It is the first utility-scale solar farm in the island and one of the largest in the region.

WRB explained that in the Caribbean, renewable energy projects, including solar panels and inverter equipment, are subject to severe stress from heavy rains, hurricane-force winds, and devastating flooding. It said that hurricane-force wind speeds of over 74 miles per hour, torrential rain, and flooding, risk dislodging solar panels,

“As a safeguard, WRB Energy's pre-construction checklist includes flood mapping and wind surveys. In addition, Content Solar's panels were tested to help ensure greater resiliency in case of severe storms and hurricanes. The racking used on Content Solar is specially designed with screw piles constructed to withstand hurricane-force winds,” WRB said.

Content Solar, one of the largest solar PV renewable energy projects in the Caribbean, was commissioned for commercial operation in August 2016. The project is the culmination of three years of work and is spread over 154 acres. The project represents an investment of over US$60 million financed by WRB SERRA and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

“Over the next twenty years, Content Solar will power more than 20,000 households and businesses annually under a power purchase agreement with the Jamaica Public Service Company,” the company said.

The facility forms part of Jamaica's goal of generating 30 per cent of its national energy needs from renewable sources by 2030.

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