Ebony Agro Park saves big on irrigation with solar-powered pump stationFriday, February 26, 2021
BY SHARLENE HENDRICKS
A $32-million investment by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will see approximately 170 farmers at Ebony Agro Park in Toll Gate, Clarendon, benefiting from a state-of-the-art, solar-powered irrigation system installed by the National Irrigation Commission Limited (NIC).
The project features a ground-mounted, 120kW grid-tied solar system to self-generate 75 per cent of the energy requirement of the station.
The system will reduce the cost to power the station by approximately $4.8 million per annum, or by 43 per cent. The project was completed in 10 months at a cost of $32.2 million, inclusive of sub-projects to improve security at the site. The duration of the installation period was three months and the project will pay for itself within seven years.
Chairman of the NIC, Nigel Myrie, speaking with reporters Wednesday at the official commissioning of the pump station, said that the installation of 432 solar panels had already saved the commission $4 million in the last month since installation.
“The cost of water to generate and to distribute is quite high, and part of our thrust is to bring down the cost of sourcing that water and then to distribute it to our farmers.
“This system, since its installation over the last month, has offset some $4.2 million of electricity [costs], so it is expected to offset between $4.5 million to $5 million a month in electricity cost — which is up to 75 per cent of the cost of running this facility,” said Myrie.
During the 2019-2020 financial year, the NIC invested $40.3 million to advance its renewable energy capacity by 150kW at three of its facilities. These three projects add to the Bengal pump house solar retrofit in Trelawny which was commissioned on January 23, 2020 and will advance the NIC's goal to reduce its operation costs, indirectly benefiting customers through improved service delivery.
The three projects include the Ebony Park Pump Station, the Hounslow and the St Dorothy District Office solar retrofits in St Elizabeth and St Catherine, respectively.
Solar retrofitting projects at NIC pump stations in Essex Valley, St Elizabeth, as well as the Southern Plains Agricultural Development project are also to come on stream.
Myrie said the projects will assist the commission in achieving its mandate of providing affordable water to farmers across the country.
“We have to be mitigating situations right across the country to resolve the issues of the availability of water — especially in areas which do not have sustainable rainfall patterns and given climate change as it is now affecting us,” Myrie stated.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green said that going forward, the ministry will be equipping new pump stations with solar technology in line with Government's policy in tackling the impact of climate change on the agricultural sector.
“We have to ensure that as cimate change affects farming so much, that we are a net positive provider to the fight against cimate change. This will reduce our carbon emissions, and this is what we are going to [do] right across our NIC pumps and for our new systems that we are rolling out. We are going to get ahead of the game by having the solar infrastructure installed as part of those projects,” said Minister Green.
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