A project that is good for Jamaica

A lightly edited version of minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Senator Matthew Samuda’s presentation last Friday in the Upper House on the Mona Reservoir Floating Solar Project.

This morning I update this chamber, and indeed the nation, on a project of national significance being undertaken in partnership with the National Water Commission (NWC) at Mona Reservoir.

The NWC has a network of more than 730 facilities which consume over 17 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity monthly at an average cost of $650 million. Increases in oil prices earlier this year triggered spikes in electricity bills, with monthly costs surpassing a $1 billion for the first time.

Energy is one of the most important pillars of water production and distribution. Water is the basis of human life — all life. It is the basis of human dignity and human health, it is the foundation on which all economic activity is built. Within the DNA of potable water, however, we can find energy.

It is for this reason that Prime Minister [Andrew] Holness has directed us at the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation and the NWC to take a serious look at our energy consumption.

To reduce its energy cost, the NWC is installing solar power at several of its facilities, which is in keeping with Jamaica’s National Energy Policy 2009-2030 to achieve no less than 20 per cent renewable energy mix by 2030. This target doesn’t reflect the ambition of 50 per cent of our energy coming from renewables, which has been articulated by the prime minister.

The Government of Jamaica recently approved the Mona Reservoir Floating Solar Project, which was officially launched by the prime minister on Wednesday, September 28, 2022. Derillion Energy Jamaica Limited (DEJL), (developer) partnering with the Aten Group (project manager) and REIL Energy Investments Limited (REIL) (EPC and operations contractor), will implement the project, which has a total capital expenditure/investment of US$62,386,968.

The project will involve:

A. The installation of a 45 megawatt-peak (MWp) direct current (DC) floating photovoltaic renewable energy plant (which will produce 45 MW DC) with a 25 megawatt-hour (MW/h) DC battery storage facility at the Mona reservoir. It includes:

1. The NWC licensing approximately 100 acres of the water surface at the Mona reservoir and leasing four acres of land for inverters and grid tie-in equipment for an initial period of 25 years to DEJL, with a lease payment of US$25,000 per annum;

2. A lease to NWC (at a fixed monthly payment equivalent to US$0.0975 cents per kilowatt-hour (kW/h)) of 10 MWp DC floating photovoltaic and 5 MW/h of battery energy storage for self-generation and wheeling of 5 MW AC of FIRM power to other NWC site locations between the hours of 8:00 am and 10:00 pm;

NWC currently pays US$0. 38 per kW/h.

3. Provision of 20 MW/h of battery storage energy to the JPS [Jamaica Public Service] grid between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm as a grid stabilising facility;

4. Strategic sharing of resources to deliver grid-stable power at US$0.0975 cents per kW/h.

5. The granting of a 35MW electricity licence (generation licence) to DEJL by the minister of energy in accordance with Section 9 (1) (c) (iii) of The Electricity Act, 2015, for the floating photovoltaic renewable energy system at the Mona Reservoir. (35MW DC of renewable power generation is intended to be supplied to the JPS grid, with a 20MW/h grid storage system as well as a grid stability system).

The project is now up and running and the initial pilot of approximately 50KW, which was installed by DEJL since May 2022, has resulted in a reduction in energy consumption at the Mona treatment plant complex for July 2022 by 31 per cent over May’s energy consumption.

There are many benefits that will be derived by the NWC and, by extension, the people of Jamaica from this project, a key benefit being energy savings:

* The NWC will utilise 100 per cent of its energy needs at the Mona treatment plant complex. This will result in savings at today’s energy cost of approximately $35 million annually.

* The NWC will receive payments for the leasing of the 100 acres of the water surface plus four acres of land for the installation of inverters, battery storage, and grid stability equipment of US$25,000 per annum.

* Projected savings due to reduced evaporation losses from the reservoir’s surface, estimated at 576,000 m3 of water annually, along with reduced need to treat algae buildup with a projected upside of US$368,000 annually in revenue and cost savings.

* De-silting capacity gains (drought mitigation), given that the project entails controlled de-silting of the reservoir as part of the tethering installation process, thus allowing for an additional 768,000 m3 of water resulting in approximately US$515,000/year in benefit based on the bathometry study completed.

Another major benefit will be:

* Pending the finalisation of wheeling rates, the NWC should, conservatively, see a reduction in its overall energy cost per KWh of 30 per cent of current rate of approximately US$0.38/KWh, the cost as at August 2022. As stated above, NWC will be wheeling out 5 MW AC of FIRM power to other NWC-qualified facilities under the wheeling regime between the hours of 8:00 am and 10:00 pm. The projected savings to NWC on its energy bill is approximately $1 billion per annum

The Mona Reservoir Floating Solar Project is an example of the Government leading the way in implementing a strategic project that will generate green energy that is both resilient and climate adaptive. This is but another tangible step in Jamaica implementing its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Colleagues should recall that Jamaica was the 11th country in the world to submit its updated NDCs to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In this commitment, Jamaica has committed to reducing its use of fossil fuels to ensure a reduction of 60 per cent of our emissions by 2030.

To this end the Government of Jamaica is reviewing the Electricity Act and nearing completion of both an updated Climate Change Policy and Emissions Policy.

There are many Jamaicans who enjoy the amenities of the Mona Reservoir for exercise. They will not be displaced. In fact, during the installation of the Floating Solar System the “track” will be upgraded to improve the surface.

The base on which the solar panels will rest is plastic. This project will be producing the base for this solar system from recycled Jamaican plastic.

This project is good for the NWC, and because it is good for the NWC, it is good for Jamaica.

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