Brace for blackouts

Brace for blackouts

JPS warns the Saharan dust could impact power supply

Saturday, June 27, 2020

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THE Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) is warning that as the Saharan dust continues to linger over the island it could have an impact on the reliability of power supply, as well as on the level of usage by its customers.

The Saharan Air Layer, also known as Saharan dust, is made of sand, dirt, and other dust that is lifted into the atmosphere from the vast desert area that covers most of North Africa. This dust is carried in the African Waves which push westward into the Atlantic Ocean.

Meteorological officials have warned that after the challenges earlier this week, a second wave of Saharan dust is on its way and has already started to move across the eastern Caribbean. Predictions are that it could start affecting Jamaica this weekend.

Vice-president for energy delivery at the JPS Blaine Jarrett has warned that the settling of the dust on the power delivery infrastructure could lead to power outages.

“The heavy dust represents an increase in contaminants on the system which can result in short circuit conditions — especially if we have light rain,” said Jarrett.

“The JPS has been closely monitoring the situation and has intensified our maintenance activities to ensure limited disruption in power supply to our customers. However, in the event of power outages, JPS teams are on standby to respond as quickly as possible to restore service to affected customers,” added Jarrett, as he reminded JPS customers to monitor their electricity usage during this time when they are encouraged to stay indoors.

“With the higher temperatures it is likely that more persons will be using their fans and air conditioning units, and going into their refrigerators more frequently. We encourage you to use what you need as efficiently as possible,” added Jarrett.

The power company has added that people with solar panels may see a drop in the power produced by these panels because the Saharan dust has reduced the impact of the sun's rays, which could result in these customers taking more power than usual from the grid. In light of this, Jarrett is urging even more self-monitoring by customers.

“We are very sensitive to our customers' concerns about high bills, and so we urge everyone to pay close attention to the different variables that could cause their bills to move. Customers are encouraged to adjust their actions, wherever possible, to ensure that their electricity usage remains in line with their expectations,” Jarrett stressed.

The forecast for the weekend indicates hazy and hot conditions with higher than normal temperatures to affect most Caribbean islands, including Jamaica.

Jamaicans are, therefore, being advised to take the necessary precautions, especially those individuals who have to work outside. Some persons may experience some minor respiratory symptoms due to the influx of dust into the atmosphere resulting in poor air quality.

Jamaicans are also being advised to stay hydrated during this time as temperatures are likely to be hotter than normal.

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