HEART College's ray of sunshine
HEART College of Construction Services, the former Portmore HEART Academy, should see its next electricity bill cut by about $90,000, thanks to a 2,000 kWh solar energy project commissioned into service at the institution on Thursday.
A bank of solar panels has already been installed on the roof of the auditorium and the inverters necessary to complete the system should be installed this week.
"Our consumption right now is in the region of about 25,000-30,000 kWh per month. From this 2,000 kWh capacity, we will be able to see savings of about $90,000 a month, which comes to just under a million per annum, and as time progresses, we're going to expand it," acting principal/director of the institution Andrew Walters said.
The college, which has a student population of 1,300 and which offers training in 10 different skill areas, now pays just over $1 million per month to electricity provider Jamaica Public Service Company, according to Walters.
He was speaking with the Jamaica Observer before the start of the commissioning ceremony, which also served to launch a solar training programme at the institution.
The project was financed to the tune of 60,000 euro by the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany under the Climate Change Partnership Project between Portmore and the city of Hagen in North Rhine Westphalia, Germany, which were twinned in 2012.
The HEART system is expected to provide service to the auditorium, the adjoining kitchen and registry, the administrative building and library, the student dormitories, as well as the residential facilities for staff. It won't, however, service the training department, which Walters said accounts for the lion's share of the institution's energy needs.
"Our training department carries most of the load because we train in about 10 skills areas that rely heavily on electricity. And because of that, it's very important that, going forward, we add to what has been given to us by the Germans," the acting principal said, later explaining that there is a medium-term plan in place to eventually take the department off the national grid.
"We are the National Training Agency and renewable energy is one of the focuses right now, so certainly, we will be going full speed with the training in renewable energy. Our sister institution, National Tools and Engineering Institute, will be coming on board as we seek to put together a programme for the HEART College of Construction Services," Walters said.
Other than the solar project and the training in renewable energy, the components of the climate partnership include a climate awareness campaign, an exchange of experts and students, and the establishment of a climate change park on lands in Portmore's town centre.
German Ambassador to Jamaica Josef Beck and deputy mayor of the city of Hagen Dr Christian Schmidt represented the German Government at the commissioning. On the Jamaican side, Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill; junior minister in the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development and MP for St Catherine South Eastern Colin Fagan; as well as councillors from the Portmore Municipal Council, including Acting Mayor Leon Thomas, Alric Campbell, Keith Blake, and Yvonne McCormack attended.
For Beck, the programme is indicative that Germany is "a strong partner and ally of Jamaica and the Caribbean in working towards climate change adaptation strategies".
The Hagen deputy mayor listed the negative impacts of fossil fuels on Jamaica's economy, air quality and health, but said he was impressed by the country's effort to use renewable sources of energy.
"Some days, the entire energy needed by the country is produced by renewable," Dr Schmidt said of Germany. "And we have a lot less sun than you; so see what your chances are," he told the audience, encouraging a faster and more integrated approach to the use of renewable energy.