USAID facilitating expansion of renewable energy technology
The 100 kilowatt solar panels installed at Jamaica Macaroni Factory Limited in Kingston. (Photos: Naphtali Junior)

Cutting costs, gaining a more competitive edge in the global market, and promoting an eco-friendly environment are rewards the Jamaica Macaroni Factory Limited is hoping to reap with its newly installed solar panels.

The company's 100-kilowatt system was provided through Jamaica Energy Resilience Alliance (JERA) – a US$4-million, three-year USAID Strengthening Energy Sector Resilience programme.

The alliance is expected to expand renewable energy technology availability and accessibility for businesses in the tourism and manufacturing industries.

Senior energy expert at JERA, Mark Dennis, said the alliance helps to provide non-biased objective and technical advisory services.

Senior energy expert at Jamaica Energy Resilience Alliance Mark Dennis speaks with the Jamaica Observer.

"For companies like the Jamaica Macaroni Factory, we are providing the service to them to ensure that they get the right type of solar system, installers and also to help them as much as possible to find innovative financing. Financing has always been a challenge in solar installations," said Dennis.

Meanwhile, Nicholas Chen, director at the macaroni factory, which produces a wide range of pasta products, told the Jamaica Observer that the solar energy system will make a major difference.

"We could work 24 hours operations [as] we have four packing machines; the boilers and other equipment cause our energy usage to be very high, and this is millions of dollars every single month. The solar system will cause change, especially during the daytime for us," he said during a tour of the facility in Kingston last Thursday.

"We finished installing the panels last month, and now we are waiting on the inverters which should be in Jamaica in a week or so. So once the inverters are installed, we can actually get going and utilise the system," he added.

Managing director at Jamaica Macaroni Factory James Chen shows spaghetti being processed during a tour at the facility last Thursday.

Meanwhile, managing director at the company, James Chen, noted that the factory is hoping to save 20 per cent in electricity cost after the next seven years.

"When we did our calculation, we checked a payback period of about six and a half years. The system lasts 25 years. The way we structured it was that, basically we should be seeing similar amounts for energy, in terms of the interest cost and cost of the system, and we shouldn't see any difference in our cash flow in terms of the cost for energy," he said, noting that power is not used over the weekends as there is no production.

"The benefits would include being more environmentally friendly, less use of electricity which uses fuels, and have emissions. Also the cost is a big factor, if we could save more money, basically we could have a lower costing product, and everybody would benefit," said Chen.

At the same time, Chen noted that the lower energy cost will help the company to be more competitive and efficient.

Managing director at Jamaica Macaroni Factory James Chen (left) and director at Jamaica Macaroni Factory Nicholas Chen discuss benefits of the solar system project.

"Anything we make in Jamaica we have to be able to compete with imported products in the local market and we export our products, so we have to be competitive where we sell them to. That's hard. Everybody says export is good, as it brings in foreign exchange and so on, but the thing is, you have to put on the shipping cost to send your product over there. The margins are very thing, so in terms of running a company, you need to look at the costs to make sure you are competitive. Energy is only one portion of what you are looking at," he explained.

BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON Observer staff reporter hutchinsonb@jamaicaobserver.com

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