Sun rules as St Ann housing community avoids JPS bills
Solar all the waySaturday, May 21, 2016
BY RENAE DIXON Staff reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
The Old Fort Village, located in Old Fort Bay, St Ann, is leading the way in the use of alternative energy in the parish and possibly Jamaica, by operating fully on solar energy.
The complex has 12 townhouses consisting of one, two and three-bedroom units all powered by the 360 solar panels which line the roofs and other areas of the complex.
The amount of power generated by this system is sufficient to run appliances, including air conditioning units in all 12 townhouses, lights on the property, the property’s irrigation system, the pool and Jacuzzi. So efficient is the power supply that visitors to the property often do not realise that power is not supplied by the Jamaica Public Service Company Ltd (JPS). In fact, it was only recently that the property was connected to the JPS grid, primarily to sell excess power to the company.
The solar system is an investment which saves the operators of this complex more than $500,000 in monthly electricity bills. Also, depending on its occupancy, Old Fort Village could sell the JPS approximately 80 to 120 kilowatt hours monthly.
"The amount being saved here is tremendous…you are saving over $526,000 per month," said Managing Director of Alternative Power Sources Damian Lyn. The solar system at Old Fort Village was installed and is maintained by Alternative Power Sources.
"This is an engineer hybrid system; it was designed to take the complex off the grid," Lyn said, further informing that the system produces an average of 540 kilowatt hours per day. Lyn explained that it was a micro-grid or community system providing power to the complex.
"JPS will act as a backup," Lyn declared, adding that it would take approximately one week of heavily overcast weather conditions for that to happen.
Lyn pointed out that the solar system is operated with 144 Trojan industrial batteries, 2,450-amp power batteries, with each battery producing two volts. These batteries last up to 15 years and have a 10-year warranty.
The solar panels serve two purposes in some areas: they serve as roofing at the poolside and at the carport areas of the property.
"The panels are sealed; there is no water coming through," Lyn said.
Max Patchen, who spoke on behalf of the developer of Old Fort Village, said he was pleased with the system.
"It’s solar, so you are not really dealing with JPS. It’s cleaner energy that is coming into your house. You are not getting surges; you are not getting the voltage irregularities that you could get with JPS. The inverters shut down before any surge gets into your house, so I think it’s efficient that way as well.
"The solar system not only allows for a cleaner environment, but it has many additional benefits which makes it very efficient.
"People who have bought or rented units at Old Fort Village are also pleased with the system," Patchen said, while declaring that the system has been very efficient.
"I think some people don’t realise that it is 100 per cent solar… the only persons who really know are those who physically live here or purchased the place knowing that they were buying into a solar system. People that come to visit, they don’t know," he said.
Patchen cautioned, however, that although Old Fort Village operates on solar energy, conservation is still necessary.
"Conservation is very important, even on a battery-based system," he said.
Lyn also pointed out that the system is easily maintained:
"The main maintenance is what we call ‘watering’ the batteries, which means ensuring they have distilled water in them and that they don’t run below a certain level.
"We monitor the system via the internet. I can stay anywhere in the world and bring up and see what is happening here, and whether the system is performing properly or not — whether it sends a red flag to say inverter down…Other than that, it’s basically keeping the panels clean.
"Alternative Power Sources is located in Kingston, and despite the distance from Old Fort Village, maintenance of the solar system is not a challenge," Lyn said.
While many would consider this investment expensive, the developers are hoping to recover their expenses in six to eight years. The complex has been in operation for over a year.
For people wanting to install solar panels, Lyn said there are options as low as $35,000.
"We are the oldest company in the business and the only one with offices outside of Jamaica in the Bahamas," Lyn said, adding that his company will help people choose the option which is best for them.