When Blue Mountain Renewables (BMR) began operating its 36-megawatt wind farm in Potsdam, St Elizabeth, a few months ago, the facility became Jamaica’s largest private-sector renewable energy project.
Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley, who gave the keynote address at the official opening on August 11, pointed out that the wind farm would help to diversify the country’s energy matrix and ease the dependence on imported fossil fuels.
“The wind farm is expected to reduce greenhouse gases by about 66,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, roughly equivalent to taking 13,000 cars off the road,” he informed.
Wheatley also applauded the relationship and assistance the company has given to the neighbouring schools, Munro College and Hampton High, as well as the treatment of farmers in St Elizabeth who were affected during the construction phase.
Principal of Hampton High Heather Murray said that she could literally see the ‘wind of change’ with the advent of the BMR wind project.
She bemoans the fact that nearly a quarter of her school’s budget is spent on high electricity cost, money that could be spent on building a state-of-the-art science laboratory.
“BMR brings hope and we welcome them wholeheartedly. We are also excited about the efforts to go green and we are doing our part here at Hampton. Earlier this year, we swapped all fluorescent light bulbs for more environmentally friendly LED bulbs,” Murray stated.
She also informed that Hampton had installed about 12 solar panels to integrate renewable energy into their electric supply. The panels, combined with small wind turbines on the campus, now provide about one-fifth of the school’s energy needs, she noted.
The BMR Jamaica Wind project will serve thousands of customers annually. Power will be sold to the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) Company, under a 20-year power-purchase agreement. This electricity is expected to be among the lowest cost sources of power available on the JPS system.
Jamaica currently relies on oil imports to meet 90 per cent of its energy needs. This leaves the country vulnerable to fluctuating oil prices, which can make it difficult to budget and plan effectively.
To ease the dependence, the country has set a target to generate 30 per cent of its energy from local renewable sources such as hydro, wind and solar power by 2030.
President of BMR Bruce Levy said construction of the project was made easier by the cooperation of the Potsdam residents and the appreciation they showed for the work being done in their community.
“We made sure there was significant benefit to the local and wider community, with billions of dollars of direct spending and employment of hundreds of Jamaicans during construction. We say, without any fear of contradiction, that we are committed to community development,” he said.
Levy informed that the wind farm was made possible through a US$62.7 million financing package, including a US$42.7 million loan from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC); a US$10 million loan from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and a US$10 million loan from the IFC-Canada Climate Change Programme. BMR Energy provided an equity investment of US$26.9 million.
The United Nations (UN) climate change secretariat has added its voice to concerns being raised about a proposal made by China’s Jiuquan Iron and Steel Company (JISCO) for the construction of a coal-fired plant in St Elizabeth.
The proposal was announced after JISCO completed a deal to acquire the Alpart alumina factory from Russian company, UC Rusal. The new Chinese owners plan to upgrade the plant with an aluminum smelter that would be powered by a 1,000-megawatt coal-fired plant.
Based on calculations provided by the CoalSwarm Global Plant Tracker, a 1,000 megawatt coal plant would produce 5.6-5.8 million tonnes of CO2 annually, increasing Jamaica’s emissions of CO2 by 79-82 per cent. Greenpeace campaigner Lauri Myllyvirta has said that the construction of the plant would violate the Paris Agreement signed under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Commenting on the possible impact of the proposed coal plant on Jamaica’s UNFCCC standing, Nick Nuttall, UNFCCC spokesperson, pointed out that Jamaica had submitted an ambitious national climate action plan to the UN aimed at achieving a nearly eight per cent emission reduction by 2030. He also argued that the action plan promised commitments of greater investment in greener sources of homegrown energy such as wind and solar power rather than increases in oft-imported fossil fuels.
He argued that economic growth and job creation were not antithetical to environmental protection.
“Many complex choices will be made by governments over the years and decades to come, including with regard to energy sources, but today, there is an ever clearer consensus that overcoming poverty and growing GDP, which are critical for developing countries, can go hand in hand with generating new kinds of high-tech jobs; creating healthier, less polluted societies and a transition to a low carbon economy …,” he said in an email response to The Gleaner.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has said that the Government is committed to balancing its economic-growth aspirations with its environmental and international commitments.
Comments solicited from Jamaica’s mission to the UN and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were not forthcoming up to press time.
Consulting engineer Howard Chin is making the case for the Alpart plant, which was recently acquired by Chinese firm Jiuquan Iron and Steel Company Ltd (JISCO), to be operated entirely using renewable energy.
JISCO has announced plans to invest US$2 billion to expand the plant which will see the addition of an aluminium smelter powered by a coal-fired plant.
Chin has, however, argued that the heat that would be generated from the coal-fired plant could be detrimental to aquatic, plant and animal life in and around the Black River area, and as such, renewable-energy sources should be considered.
“Cooling the power plant and running the bauxite refinery requires a lot of water. How hot would the Black River become downstream of Alpart? Hot enough to kill animal life? Certainly, NEPA (National Environment and Planning Agency) is not answering these questions which have to be answered. Nor do they have the technical capability to do so,” Chin said in an emailed response to The Gleaner.
In recognition of the problem of storage capacity associated with renewables, Chin explained that a large pumped hydroelectric storage power plant could be used to power the alumina plant in the first instance.
“It could be done using a large renewable energy system backed up by a pumped storage system,” he said.
Pumped hydroelectric storage facilities store energy in the form of water in an upper reservoir, pumped from another reservoir at a lower elevation. During periods of high electricity demand, power is generated by releasing the stored water through turbines in the same manner as a conventional hydropower station. During periods of low demand, the upper reservoir is recharged by using lower-cost electricity from the grid to pump the water back to the upper reservoir.
Turning his attention to the Bayer Process, which would be used to produce aluminium should the Chinese go ahead with plans to build a smelter at Alpart, Chin observed that the heat given off could be transferred to the alumina refinery, which requires it in large quantities. According to the former Jamaica Institution of Engineers president, the smelter could also be powered by renewable energy.
“The alumina refinery needs a lot of heat. The aluminium smelter needs electricity and ends up giving off a lot of heat. Frankly, it might be possible to run the combined alumina and aluminium refining plant on a mostly very large renewable-energy system and a very large pumped storage system, and moving the heat from where it is produced to where it is needed,” he said.
Malvern, St Elizabeth — Eighteen months after ground was broken, the 36.3-megawatt wind farm run by BMR Jamaica Wind at Potsdam, Malvern, high in the Santa Cruz Mountains, was formally commissioned in mid-August.
Priced at US$89.9 million, the wind project, located across the road from another wind farm run by light and power company Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), is being described as the single largest investment in St Elizabeth since construction of the Alpart alumina plant at Nain in the late 1960s.
The BMR project includes eleven wind turbines, which will provide energy to JPS’s national grid at US12.9 cents per kilowatt-hour.
BMR Jamaica Wind is a subsidiary of US-based BMR Energy. Guests at the recent formal commissioning were told that billionaire British investor, Sir Richard Branson — who turned up for the commissioning — was in the process of acquiring BMR through his wide- ranging and far-flung Virgin Group.
Branson, who triggered laughter by ripping up and throwing away what he said were his speaking notes, told his audience that his motive for the acquisition was to promote a clean energy revolution.
“I decided recently that we needed to get one or two core (clean energy) companies under our belt so that we can actually get out there and speed up this revolution …” he said.
“ We were delighted to acquire BMR and we will be out there trying to hustle and bustle governments all over the Caribbean and other countries to hurry up towards carbon neutrality by 2050. Personally, I don’t need to make money out of it, if it makes a bit of money, fine; if it doesn’t, fine. I just want to get the wind out there get the solar out there, … be powered by sun, wind, sea… a green energy revolution and bring the cost of energy down for everybody; get rid of the dangers of coal and oil and the dirty energies that we are using today… ” said Branson, founder of the Virgin Group.
Funding for the BMR project in Malvern was sourced through a package including a US$42-million loan from the US quasi-government investment agency Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which pushes US overseas investment globally; US$10 million from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which promotes private sector development; US$10 million from the IFC-Canada Climate Change Programme and equity investment of US$26.9 million from BMR Energy.
Jamaica’s energy minister Andrew Wheatley said the BMR wind farm formed part of the government’s drive to significantly reduce reliance on fossil fuels and reduce the current annual oil bill of about US$2 billion. Ninety-two per cent of Jamaica’s energy needs are currently met by oil imports, he said.
The project was in line with the target of 30 per cent renewables in the national energy mix by 2030, as stated in the National Energy Policy, and in keeping with Vision 2030 Jamaica, the minister said.
“Projects like BMR continue to establish Jamaica as a clear renewables market leader within the Caribbean. By the end of this year, we would have added 80 MW of renewable energy to the national grid, through Wigton III (a wind farm at Rose Hill in southern Manchester), Content Solar (solar plant in Clarendon), and this facility,” Wheatley said.
Bruce Levy, president of BMR Energy, said the company had plans to expand the wind farm at Malvern by an additional three wind turbines. Small farmers would co-exist with the energy-generating operations, he said.
JMMB Group Limited will spend US$420,000 ($53 million) on a solar energy system to power various offices across Jamaica this year.
The project forms part of a wider move by JMMB to reduce its carbon footprint.
“We plan to implement this on a location-by-location basis, with the first implementation taking place at one of our locations in Kingston, in the coming months. The cost is as stated, US$420,000,” the financial conglomerate told the Financial Gleaner.
JMMB estimates the project payback period will span just about five years based on expected energy savings.
The solar plant will generate up to 293,935 kilowatts, hours of electricity per year with the use of clean renewable energy.
“The system is expected to save the company US$90,000 annually, and reduce oil energy dependency by 34 per cent,” JMMB said in its newly released annual report for year ending March 2016.
Roughly three years ago, JMMB embarked on a company-wide initiative coined ‘Go Green’, with one of the primary objectives to change the group’s energy practices in a way that was more environmentally friendly and cost-efficient.
“This investment in a grid-tied solar system is just another step in the direction of making us even more efficient at how we use energy,” the company said via email.
A grid-tied solar system is one where the system itself is tied to the external electricity grid, as opposed to batteries.
“In other words, the system uses the sun to generate our electricity needs, with any unused electricity going back to the external grid, as opposed to being stored in batteries,” said JMMB.
JMMB expects the project to expand over time through exploration of other renewable resources to all JMMB Group locations, where possible.
JMMB Group made $2.3 billion profit off $10.42 billion of net revenue in FY2016.
A smart meter is seen on display at the launch. Ricardo Makyn
The Jamaica Public Service (JPS) launched their nationwide smart meter roll-out at the JPS headquarters on July 7.
According to President and CEO of JPS Kelly Tomblin, “the future of energy is bright… Jamaica and JPS are embedded in a phase of unprecedented progress”. Gary Barrow, chief technology officer at JPS, underscored the importance of smart meters and the benefits to the current national grid.
“We’re actually putting more intelligence in the grid to provide the stability and reliability that is going to be necessary when we start to integrate mass amounts of these renewables and that is really the start of our smart grid, the primary driver,” he said. “This year, we’re going to be launching three applications … those are going to be smart-phone applications.” On these applications, customers will be able to get outage notifications, restoration times, and real-time consumption and see their bill online and pay it.
“All of our appliances in a short while will become Wi-Fi-enabled and it will mean that you will be able to use your smartphone wherever you are, whatever time, to actually look at your devices, to get access to your devices and turn them on and off,” he said. The company is also investing in other smart grid technologies and services, including smart LED street lighting, smart parking and smart vehicle-charging stations for electric vehicles. This is all part of building a smart energy economy.
A pilot programme was launched three years ago in sections of the Jacks Hill and Barbican communities and Barrow said the company learned much from both customers and on the technical side.
“Already, we have over 50,000 smart meters in the field right now that we’re able to control remotely and we’re able to get usage patterns, but we don’t have the software that actually allows our customers to dial in.”
This year, the company is targeting to roll out over 20,000 smart meters on that network at a cost of approximately US$5 million. Seven parishes will be covered: Kingston, St Catherine, Clarendon, St Ann, St Mary, St James and Westmoreland. JPS technicians will visit customers over the next four to five months and will change the current meters free of cost
BY AVIA COLLINDER Business reporter email@example.com
LNG is coming to Jamaica
New Fortress Energy, the company which has won the contract to supply the island’s sole power distributor the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) with LNG for substations in Bogue, Montego Bay and another to be developed in Old Harbour, St Catherine, said it buys supplies from sources worldwide.
The company has declined to comment whether its suppliers include Trafigura Beheer, from which the Jamaica Observer understands it has sought to make buys.
Meanwhile, the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team (ESET) has indicated to theBusiness Observer that it does not matter where in the world the gas comes from.
Trafigura is the world’s third-largest private oil and metals trader. That company is also seeking to grow its market for LNG supply globally.
However, in 2011 the Dutch company was involved in controversy for a $31-million political donation to the the People’s National Party administration, which was then the governing party.
The company continues to sell supplies through third-party deals to the local market, including spot purchases made by Petrojam.
Describing the surge in LNG demand as an “LNG revolution”, Trafigura says on its wesbite that it plans to double supplies sold year over year from base year 2013 when the company transported one metric tonne (mt) of LNG globally.
The company has three full-time traders based in Geneva supported by its US Natural Gas team in Houston, Texas, and a European Natural Gas team, working with 27 LNG regional offices in key export and import countries across the globe.
However, as to sales programmed for Jamaica, the company said it has no comment.
“We don’t comment on our day-to-day commercial arrangements,” Victoria Dix, media liaison for Trafigura said when asked to channel questions about the Caribbean market, including Jamaica.
Bloomberg describes Trafigura Beheer as the world’s current largest LNG trader, reporting at year end December 2015 that the commodity trader “boosted the amount of LNG handled to 4.2 million metric tonnes in the financial year ended September 30, from 1.7 million a year earlier following a doubling in volumes… that made it the world’s biggest independent LNG trader.”
A source close to New Fortress Energy told the Business Observer that it is normal for ships to swap cargo and there may have been spot purchases, but that there is, however, no long-term relationship with Trafigura.
More directly, the company, through a spokesperson, said it sources LNG from all over the world.
“In addition to supplying our own gas from the United States, New Fortress Energy sources gas from all over the world. As a matter of policy, we cannot comment further,” New Fortress said.
He stated that in relation to Bogue, “we’re making significant progress and are excited to provide natural gas to help further Jamaica’s clean energy transition. We’re in close coordination with JPS on the process and timeline”.
Chairman of ESET Dr Vincent Lawrence told the Business Observer on Monday that the source of LNG was immaterial.
“ESET is not aware of any trades, swaps or short-term source arrangements that New Fortress Energy may make in satisfying its contractual arrangements with JPS.
“NFE under its Gas Supply Agreement arrangements can supply gas from any origin. However, in ESET granting approval of the Gas Supply Agreement between JPS and NFE, in order to ensure security of supply, NFE had to demonstrate as to its long-term ownership of and access to gas from the United States including the ability to obtain any required export permits.”
Lawrence added, “The contractual arrangements are private and between two private companies,” further adding that “the GOJ is not a party to the contractual nor day to day delivery arrangements”.
The island is moving towards the majority use of LNG as fuel for energy, with the aim of reducing dependence on oil which is subject to price volatility.
To that end, JPS has retrofitted its 115MW gas turbine plant in Montego Bay from automotive diesel oil to dual fuel use. The conversion, it was projected, will result in an approximate 40 per cent fuel price reduction.
New Fortress has also secured the supply contract for the JPS’s planned 195MW plant in Old Harbour which is being razed and will be rebuilt and expanded.
Start-up of LNG use at the JPS Bogue plant is due to begin in August, when construction of fuel lines and storage facilities are expected to be completed.
New Fortress is also slated to construct an expandable 100MW, natural, gas-fired, cogeneration plant for alumina producer, Jamalco, replacing a previous plan for a coal-fired alternative
The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), managers of the national electricity grid expects Golar LNG to ship liquefied natural gas to Jamaica, despite its heavy losses.
Golar is contracted to New Fortress Energy (NFE), the latter being JPS’s selected partner to develop and supply natural gas to the Jamaican utility. New Fortress is five months behind schedule with deliveries.
JPS President and Chief Executive Officer Kelly Tomblin said that even in the worst-case scenario, the power utility remains protected.
“Golar is a public company with a market cap of about US$1.5 billion and a balance sheet with over US$4 billion of assets. It’s been in business since 1946 and is widely followed by investors all over the world,” said Tomblin in a response to Gleaner queries.
“New Fortress Energy has indicated to me that they have been a dependable and reliable partner in preparing to deliver gas to Jamaica. JPS is protected contractually if New Fortress fails to bring gas, as required in the gas supply agreement.”
NFE earlier this year contracted Golar for two years to ship LNG to Jamaica. The first shipments will feed JPS’s plant at Bogue in Montego Bay, which has already been retrofitted to burn gas as well as diesel oil.
In early June, NFE acknowledged Gleaner queries regarding the implications of Golar’s finances, but did not follow through with a response.
Golar reported net losses of US$80 million for its first quarter ending March. The loss was mainly because of its US$61.5 million in operating expenses, towering over its US$18.6 million in revenues for the period. Over 12 months, Golar posted a US$197.6-million net loss for financial year 2015 and US$43 million in net losses for 2014.
Last month, CEO Gary Smith resigned, and its former CEO, Oscar Spieler, retook control of the company amid restructuring of the operations.
Tomblin expects the LNG projects at Bogue and, later, at Old Harbour, along with additional capacity from renewable plants, to reduce the power utility’s reliance on heavy oil from 95 per cent to 50 per cent in the medium term.
Repurposed batteries could create a new revenue stream for EV customers. But it’s not yet clear how the buyback program will work.
The German automaker announced that it is turning new and used i3 batteries into energy storage solutions for homes and small businesses. The company unveiled its plans at an electric vehicle symposium in Montreal.
“With a battery storage system electrified by BMW, our customers can take the next step toward a sustainable energy lifestyle. Coupled with the home-charging and solar energy programs, the system enables BMW drivers to embrace holistic sustainability beyond e-mobility,” said Rob Healey, manager of electric vehicle infrastructure for BMW North America, in a statement.
In an interview, Healey added that energy storage fits with BMW’s 360º Electric program, which currently offers customers electric vehicles, charging infrastructure and rooftop solar through a partnership with SolarCity. Through that partnership BMW i owners receive a $1,000 credit toward SolarCity’s home solar offer. BMW’s sustainability package sounds very similar to the type of solution Tesla wants to offer with its proposed acquisition of SolarCity.
“This is really a part of a much bigger puzzle for BMW that we’re putting together as we look out to the future,” said Healey. “We offer customers electric vehicles, we offer customers charging, and we offer customers access to solar panels and producing their own renewable energy. And now, with this next piece, we offer the customer an energy storage solution that fits into the overall picture of sustainability.”
The market-ready product currently uses i3 high-voltage batteries, but can be equipped to incorporate second-life batteries as they become available. There are relatively few of these used batteries on the market today, because the i3, an all-electric city car, has only been on the market since 2013. That will change as the lithium-ion batteries degrade over time and are no longer considered suitable for vehicle use. A repurposed battery can offer “many additional years of service,” according to BMW.
As i3 batteries reach the end of their automotive life, BMW and German-based Beck Automation plan to turn them into plug-and-play energy storage systems by unbolting them from the i3 and installing them in a Beck-designed charging module. The system is sized to fit conveniently in a basement or a garage where it can be used to power electrically operated devices in a home or to charge an electric car.
The energy storage units are equipped with BMW i3’s 22-kilowatt-hour or 33-kilowatt-hour capacity batteries, which are ideally suited to operate appliances and entertainment devices for up to 24 hours. A typical home in the U.S. consumes between 15 and 30 kilowatt-hours of energy per day.
The systems are outfitted with software to determine the optimal time to charge or discharge the system. The BMW storage system also includes a voltage converter and power electronics to manage the energy flow between renewable energy resources, the home and the battery.
“With this system, which integrates seamlessly with charging stations and solar panels, customers can offset peak energy costs and also enjoy the added security of an available backup energy supply during power outages,” according to the BMW press release.
Theoretically, this concept should give i3 drivers a new way to make money from their used cars by creating a market for second-life batteries. However, it’s not yet clear how a battery buyback program would work.
There are also a number of outstanding questions around battery design and cost. Tesla’s 6.4-kilowatt-hour home battery sells to installers for $3,000 and is estimated to retail for around $7,000. Can BMW’s 22-kilowatt-hour used battery get anywhere close to that price?
In addition, the product release timeline has yet to be determined. According to a spokesman, “BMW is currently evaluating a distribution/marketing strategy where pilot programs in the U.S. could start in 2017.”
BMW has been preparing to enter the stationary energy storage market for a number of years. In 2013, the automaker installed a microgrid application at the University of California San Diego using second-life Mini E batteries. In 2014, BMW integrated high-voltage batteries into a stationary storage system in Hamburg for Vattenfall that stores solar power as a buffer for fast-charging stations. In 2015, NextEra signed a contract for the delivery of 20 megawatt-hours of repurposed automotive batteries from the i3 and BMW’s ActiveE test fleet — which BMW claims is the largest contract of its kind in automotive history.
In addition, BMW continues to participate in an energy storage pilot projectwith Pacific Gas & Electric. Under the program, PG&E manages 100 kilowatts of demand from 100 active i3 vehicles and a stationary unit of repurposed BMW Mini E batteries located at BMW’s Mountain View office. The system was designed to test how electric vehicles and second-life batteries can offer reliability services to the grid. Last fall, BMW shared preliminary results showing that the system had delivered on more than two dozen demand response events called by the utility.
According to Cliff Fietzek, manager of connected e-mobility at BMW North America, past experience revealed that it’s very expensive to reconfigure batteries for reuse, which is why BMW developed a plug-and-play solution for it’s home battery. “We don’t have to put any special software in or take modules out and can take advantage of all of the engineering we put into producing the car battery,” he said. “We can use the same heating and cooling system for the car battery and the same safety mechanisms … there is not too much work to be done on the integration side, which saves a lot on cost and increases flexibility.”
However, the company will have to wait to see the results of its home battery pilot programs before really knowing what the cost and return on investment is, he added.
BMW is the latest auto company to get into stationary storage. Tesla has garnered an enormous amount of attention with the launch of its energy storage business and massive battery Gigafactory. Meanwhile, Toyota,General Motors and Nissan are actively testing stationary storage solutions and looking to make larger plays. Daimler/Mercedes-Benz introduced a stationary battery business in Europe last year, and is rumored to be launching a U.S. product this fall.
THE CARIBBEAN is, within the next two or so years, to have an energy efficiency strategy that should serve the growth agenda of various islands.
To begin the work, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has secured the support of the European Union (EU).
“The EU will send a team in to work with us to identify the elements of the framework for the strategy. Having identified that framework, we will utilise a Technical Cooperation Facility (TCF) that we have with the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) as well as support that we are already getting from the GIZ to do what I refer to as investment grade analysis to identify the energy efficiency options in the various sectors across countries in the CARICOM states,” said Dr Devon Gardner, programme manager for energy with the CARICOM secretariat.
He was speaking to the Gleaner at the energy and sustainable development forum hosted by the University of the West Indies in Kingston on Tuesday.
According to Gardner, the strategy – to be developed in line with CARICOM’s five-year strategic plan for 2015 through 2019 will take account of key productive sectors (tourism, agriculture, services and the public sector) together with the electricity and transport sectors.
In the end, he said it should deliver on:
• an energy efficient building code for the region;
• energy performance standards for certain types of appliances, including refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines, and lights (LED and CFLs);
• energy labelling standards for appliances that provide consumers with information and operating cost of the various devices; and
• performance standards for a number of renewable energy devices, including solar water heaters.
“What are doing is not just to understand the amount of energy savings potential, but critically it is to understand the value of the energy savings to the economy and the investment package required to pursue those opportunities if we desire,” Gardner noted.
News of the regional energy efficiency strategy comes at a time when CARICOM countries are collectively using some 13,000 Btu of energy to produce one US dollar of gross domestic product (GDP) compared to 4,000 Btu of energy used by Japan, for example, to produce the same one US dollar of GDP and the global average of 10,000 Btu.
This is according to Gardner who said that “the region is perhaps the most inefficient in the world as regards energy efficiency.”