Category: Solar Energy

In the weeks after Energy Secretary Rick Perry kicked off a 60-day study examining the impact of wind and solar on fossil baseload power plants — hinting that he might use DOE authority to halt state renewable energy targets — an army of researchers, grid experts and renewable energy professionals showed up at his doorstep.

They were armed with a deep body of research (including a report from a prominent anti-subsidy libertarian think tank) and real-world experience (including from Perry’s home state of Texas) showing that variable renewables aren’t the threat to grid reliability that the Energy Secretary implies.

The latest to weigh in: David Hochschild of the California Energy Commission and David Olsen of the California Independent System Operator Board of Governors.

The two prominent energy experts penned an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, calling DOE assumptions about grid reliability “nonsense.”

“In California, which has installed more clean energy than any other state, there have been no threats to the reliability of the electric grid caused by renewables. Instead, the three biggest threats to our grid over the last 20 years came from market manipulation (Enron et al., during the 2001 energy crisis), a nuclear plant failure (San Onofre, 2012), and the largest natural gas leak in history (Aliso Canyon gas storage facility, 2015). Rather than create these emergencies, renewable energy was part of the solution and continued to operate reliably and prevented these events from becoming worse,” wrote Hochschild and Olsen.

They also look at grid reliability in other countries. Denmark and Germany, which host some of the highest levels of non-hydro renewables in the world, have 10 times fewer minutes of outages each year.

The graph below comes from Dan Shugar, CEO of NEXTracker, who compiled outage data sets back in April.

Shugar posted a response to Perry’s assumptions about solar and wind causing grid reliability problems: “Sorry, Secretary Perry, the facts don’t support that.”

“We analyzed how the grid reliability, as measured by ‘customer outage minutes per year’ of countries with the highest renewable penetration (Denmark, Germany) compare with the USA. The result? Germany and Denmark have two to four times the renewables of the USA, but have much more reliable power — in fact, only 10% of the outages that U.S. customers do,” wrote Shugar.

This isn’t to say that renewables are the reason for Europe’s better outage record. A lack of spending on transmission and distribution infrastructure throughout the 1990s in the U.S. is a major factor in outages. America’s vulnerability to hurricanes is another reason. Europe also buries more of its distribution infrastructure, making it less susceptible to weather-related disruptions.

Still, the presence of very high amounts of renewable energy in European countries — made possible with sophisticated grid management techniques — does not itself make the grid less reliable.

Hochschild and Olsen echoed Shugar’s point in their Friday op-ed.

“What happens when the wind doesn’t blow, or the sun doesn’t shine? To answer that question, one needs to examine the many countries that have more renewable energy than we do. Wind and solar contribute a share 2.5 times larger in Germany’s electricity mix (18.2 percent in 2016) than they do in the United States (6.9 percent). Germany produced 82 percent of its electricity from renewables for a period of several days in May. Denmark gets 100 percent of its electricity from renewables on many days of the year. Yet both nations have electric grids that are 10 times more reliable than America’s. Germany and Denmark average 23 and 24 minutes of customer outages per year, respectively, while the United States averages 240 minutes per year,” they wrote.

The DOE study should be released later this week. It’s one of the most anticipated reports from the agency in years — and it’ll likely be the most scrutinized, too.

Outgoing JPS President Kelly Tomblin.

Power utility Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) plans to build a 24.5-megawatt facility to store energy as a safeguard against power outages.

It’s described as the first of its kind in the Caribbean.

JPS plans to build the facility next year, but no cost was disclosed up to press time. It will act like a giant battery that charges when solar- or wind-energy plants generate energy. It then kicks into action, the less power these renewable plants generate due to cloud cover or low wind speeds.

“The proposed initiative will allow JPS to provide a high-speed response when the output from renewables is suddenly reduced to mitigate stability and power quality issues that cause outages to customers,” stated JPS in a release.

The company did not respond immediately to questions seeking more details. It initially said the release, which appeared on the Jamaica Stock Exchange’s website, was not meant to be made public until Monday.

Peak energy usage in Jamaica starts at 6.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m, which represents a leisure peak, rather than an economic development peak. That becomes important as solar plants reduce power generation just as the peak period starts.

PROVIDING VALUE

Additionally, wind farms optimally generate power at nights but after peak periods. The storage facility would, therefore, provide value as it comes into effect at peak periods utilising the power already stored.

The facility requires regulatory approval from the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) but in anticipation, the JPS board of directors last week signed off on the hybrid energy storage solution, the release stated. The project involves construction of a 24.5MW facility at the Hunts Bay Power Plant Substation, and will be a combination of high-speed and low-speed flywheels and containerised lithium-ion batteries. Once approved for construction, it would become operational by the third quarter of 2018.

“The innovation will help to secure grid stability and reliability in the face of increasing intermittent renewable energy. The energy storage solution will have power readily available in the event that solar and wind renewable systems, suddenly lose power due to cloud cover, reduced wind or other interruptions,” stated the release.

It will also provide a much faster, cost effective and environmentally friendly spinning reserve or backup as an alternative to traditional generation spinning reserve which is required by the company.

INCREASED FLEXIBILITY

Additionally, the JPS is seeking to convert more generating units to use liquefied natural gas (LNG). This will result in increased flexibility of the generating units, as the JPS moves to ensure that customers have a more reliable, affordable and sustainable quality service. JPS continues to steadily diversify from solely heavy oil fuel to include natural gas and some 115MW of renewables.

Energy efficiency is now an integral part of JPS’ push to become a more modern and cleaner energy provider.

Jamaica has an energy intensity of approximately 4,800 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per US$1,000 of gross domestic product. To put that into perspective, last December outgoing JPS president Kelly Tomblin described it as one of the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean. She indicated that such inefficient use of energy constrains Jamaica’s growth.

The country, however, has made some gains in its efficiency drive. It ranked 92nd in the World Economic Forum’s Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report 2017, up from 98 the year before.

The rise in rank was attributed to the 80MW of renewables added in 2016 and plans for an additional 100MW of renewable this year.

In Jamaica last year, Wigton Wind Farm III added 24MW of renewable capacity, BMR Windfarm added 36.3MW, and WRB Content Solar, 20MW. The country saved around US$18 million (J$2.3 billion) in oil imports based on the 80MW renewable energy projects.

Concurrently, those renewable projects saved 800,000 metric tonnes in toxic carbon emissions, according to the energy ministry.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s outlook shows renewables will be cheaper almost everywhere in just a few years.

Solar power, once so costly it only made economic sense in spaceships, is becoming cheap enough that it will push coal and even natural-gas plants out of business faster than previously forecast.

That’s the conclusion of a Bloomberg New Energy Finance outlook for how fuel and electricity markets will evolve by 2040. The research group estimated solar already rivals the cost of new coal power plants in Germany and the U.S. and by 2021 will do so in quick-growing markets such as China and India.

The scenario suggests green energy is taking root more quickly than most experts anticipate. It would mean that global carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuels may decline after 2026, a contrast with the International Energy Agency’s central forecast, which sees emissions rising steadily for decades to come.

“Costs of new energy technologies are falling in a way that it’s more a matter of when than if,” said Seb Henbest, a researcher at BNEF in London and lead author of the report.

The report also found that through 2040:

  • China and India represent the biggest markets for new power generation, drawing $4 trillion, or about 39 percent all investment in the industry.
  • The cost of offshore wind farms, until recently the most expensive mainstream renewable technology, will slide 71 percent, making turbines based at sea another competitive form of generation.
  • At least $239 billion will be invested in lithium-ion batteries, making energy storage devices a practical way to keep homes and power grids supplied efficiently and spreading the use of electric cars.
  • Natural gas will reap $804 billion, bringing 16 percent more generation capacity and making the fuel central to balancing a grid that’s increasingly dependent on power flowing from intermittent sources, like wind and solar.

BNEF’s conclusions about renewables and their impact on fossil fuels are most dramatic. Electricity from photovoltaic panels costs almost a quarter of what it did in 2009 and is likely to fall another 66 percent by 2040. Onshore wind, which has dropped 30 percent in price in the past eight years, will fall another 47 percent by the end of BNEF’s forecast horizon.

That means even in places like China and India, which are rapidly installing coal plants, solar will start providing cheaper electricity as soon as the early 2020s.

“These tipping points are all happening earlier and we just can’t deny that this technology is getting cheaper than we previously thought,” said Henbest.

Coal will be the biggest victim, with 369 gigawatts of projects standing to be cancelled, according to BNEF. That’s about the entire generation capacity of Germany and Brazil combined.

Capacity of coal will plunge even in the U.S., where President Donald Trump is seeking to stimulate fossil fuels. BNEF expects the nation’s coal-power capacity in 2040 will be about half of what it is now after older plants come offline and are replaced by cheaper and less-polluting sources such as gas and renewables.

In Europe, capacity will fall by 87 percent as environmental laws boost the cost of burning fossil fuels. BNEF expects the world’s hunger for coal to abate starting around 2026 as governments work to reduce emissions in step with promises under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“Beyond the term of a president, Donald Trump can’t change the structure of the global energy sector single-handedly,” said Henbest.

All told, the growth of zero-emission energy technologies means the industry will tackle pollution faster than generally accepted. While that will slow the pace of global warming, another $5.3 trillion of investment would be needed to bring enough generation capacity to keep temperature increases by the end of the century to a manageable 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the report said.

The data suggest wind and solar are quickly becoming major sources of electricity, brushing aside perceptions that they’re too expensive to rival traditional fuels.

By 2040, wind and solar will make up almost half of the world’s installed generation capacity, up from just 12 percent now, and account for 34 percent of all the power generated, compared with 5 percent at the moment, BNEF concluded.

Thousands of photovoltaic panels across the UK generate 8.7GW, smashing previous high of 8.48GW earlier this month

Woman relaxes on deckchair in London.

Solar power has broken new records in the UK by providing nearly a quarter of the country’s electricity needs, thanks to sunny skies and relatively low summer demand.

National Grid said the thousands of photovoltaic panels on rooftops and in fields across the UK were generating 8.7GW, or 24.3% of demand at 1pm on Friday, smashing the previous high of 8.48GW earlier this month.

Experts said the unprecedented share for solar energy meant about 60% of the UK’s power was low carbon, taking into account Britain’s wind farms and nuclear power stations too. That figure is normally around 50%.

National Grid, which is tasked with ensuring a match between supply and demand for electricity, said it was excited but unfazed by the challenge of accommodating “significant volumes” of renewables.

Solar provided a record percentage of UK power at 1pm on 26 May 2017
 Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 20.40.20

Duncan Burt, who manages day-to-day operation of the grid, said: “We have planned for these changes to the energy landscape and have the tools available to ensure we can balance supply and demand.”

Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace, said: “Today’s new record is a reminder of what the UK could achieve if our government reversed its cuts to support for solar, and backed the clean technologies that could provide jobs, business opportunities and plentiful clean energy for decades to come.”

The milestone reached on Friday is the latest in a series of records for solar, which has grown from almost nothing seven years ago to 12GW of capacity today. Last summer it provided more power than the UK’s last 10 coal-fired power stations.

In April this year, Britain achieved its first-ever full working day without coal powersince it started burning the fuel in 1882, thanks in part to solar energy.

Solar’s rapid growth is overturning conventions for the managers of the UK’s power grid. In March, for the first time ever, the amount of electricity demanded by homes and businesses in the afternoon was lower than it was in the night, thanks to the cut in demand due to solar panels.

Alastair Buckley, a solar expert at the University of Sheffield, said of the latest record: “I think it’s a positive sign. It’s free electricity today, for the consumer, and we should make the most of it.”

Solar power generation in the UK
 Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 20.41.54

He said that with solar continuing to be installed despite the government’s drastic subsidy cuts in 2016, further records will certainly be broken this summer and for years to come.

Buckley said the grid could handle a far greater proportion of solar power than currently seen, because gas power stations could be ramped down. For National Grid, periods of high pressure bringing lovely weather to the UK like this week were: “really predictable, so easy to plan for,” Buckley said.

Robert Gross of Imperial College said: “This doesn’t pose fundamental problem for the grid – many sunnier countries manage a similar proportion of solar on a much more regular basis.”

Government statistics published on Thursday show that UK solar power capacity has grown from 11.3GW in April last year to 12.1GW this year, enough to power 3.8m homes.

Guardian graphic | Source: MyGridGB

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 1.32.37 PM

The Tesla solar roof is a wonderful innovative technology that will revolutionize the solar industry especially as more companies start to produce their own solar roofs. Tesla launched their solar roof with combined Powerwall battery system this week and everyone got very excited. But how excited should we be in Jamaica?

Here at Solar Buzz we get a lot of calls regarding new technology and the solar roof has been on people’s minds for 7 months since the initial announcement. My response to prospective solar clients would be to not get too excited about owning a solar roof in Jamaica anytime soon, for a few reasons:

  • Not available outside USA initially: If you go to the Tesla Solar Roof page there is a calculator. It will predict the cost of the roof but this calculator only works for US addresses. As with the Tesla Powerwall battery system, which launched over 2 years ago, demand will be high and availability will be limited to the USA until all the kinks are worked out. I have yet to come across a Tesla Powerwall battery system in Jamaica so I would not look for a solar roof in Jamaica for a while.
  • New technology is expensive: The solar roof is very new therefore the price is going to be very high. On the Tesla calculator I typed in a Florida address and put the house size at 2,000sf, the costing is below:

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 7.26.48 AM

A 2,000sf roof would cost J$10,500,000 before shipping and is estimated to offset 70% of your electricity bill. Florida has a solar tax credit but Jamaica has much higher energy costs so let’s say these even out for simplicity. A rough payback of this roof in Jamaica would be about 20yrs which puts us back to the early days of solar when regular panels were expensive at US$2/watt compared to US$0.50/watt now. Solar did not sell in those early days because the payback was too long. Actually solar is very cheap now and the solar market still struggles in Jamaica! This is mostly due to the lack of and a tedious financing process in Jamaica but that’s a whole different thesis.

  • The Tesla calculator assumes the home would only need one Powerwall battery bank which produces 14kWh. For a home with a family of four, the solar system would mostly likely need at least two Powerwall battery banks to achieve 100% offset, so add another US$7,000 to the cost.

This assessment is not to discourage anyone towards the solar roof as eventually all roofs will be made of solar tiles. However until that time conventional solar systems are at their most inexpensive levels of all time. A homeowner could buy a new roof and install a traditional solar system to offset 100% of electricity costs and payback for both in half the time of a Tesla solar roof right now. Eventually this will change but at this moment in time do not bank on a solar roof being available in Jamaica or feasible for many years to come. The time you spend waiting  on the Tesla solar roof in Jamaica you could have bought a traditional solar system, a new roof and paid off both through your energy savings.

Solar Buzz Jamaica CEO-Jason Robinson

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk.

Electric car maker Tesla has added another product to its line-up: Solar roof tiles.

As of Wednesday, customers worldwide could order a solar roof on Tesla’s website. Installations will begin next month in the United States, starting with California. Installations outside the US will begin next year, the company said.

The glass tiles were unveiled by Tesla last fall just before the company merged with solar panel maker SolarCity Corp. They’re designed to look like a traditional roof, with options that replicate slate or terracotta tiles. The solar tiles contain photovoltaic cells that are invisible from the street.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said one of the drawbacks to home solar installations has been the solar panels themselves: They’re often awkward, shiny and ugly. Buyers will want Tesla’s roof, he said, because it looks as good or better than a normal roof.

“When you have this installed on your house, you’ll have the best roof in the neighbourhood. The aesthetics are that good,” Musk said in a conference call with media.

The roof is guaranteed for the life of the home, which is longer than the 20-year lifespan for a typical, non-solar roof, Musk said. It has gone through the same hail, fire and wind testing that normal roofs endure.

Tesla’s website includes a calculator where potential buyers can estimate the cost of a solar roof based on the size of their home, the amount of sunlight their neighbourhood receives and federal tax credits. They can also put down a refundable US$1,000 deposit to reserve a place in line.

Tesla said the solar tiles cost US$42 per square foot to install, making them far more costly than slate, which costs around US$17 per square foot, or asphalt, which costs around US$5. But homes would only need between 30 and 40 per cent of their roof tiles to be solar; the rest would be Tesla’s cheaper non-solar tiles which would blend in with the solar ones.

Save On Installation

It would cost US$69,100 to install a solar roof with 40-percent solar tiles on a 2,600-square-foot roof in suburban Detroit, according to Tesla’s website. That includes a US$7,000 Tesla Powerwall, a battery unit that stores the energy from the solar panels and powers the home. The roof would be eligible for a US$15,500 federal tax credit and would generate an estimated US$62,100 in electricity over 30 years. Over that time period, Tesla estimates, the homeowner would save US$8,500.

Tesla said the typical homeowner can expect to pay US$21.85 per square foot for a Tesla solar roof. The cost can be rolled into the homeowner’s mortgage payments and paid for over time, the company said.

Musk wouldn’t say how many orders the company expects to get this year. He expects the initial ramp-up to be slow.

“It will be very difficult and it will take a long time, and there will be some stumbles along the way. But it’s the only sensible vision of the future,” Musk said.

Palo Alto, California-based Tesla Inc is making the solar tiles at its Fremont, California, factory initially. But eventually all production will move to a joint Tesla and Panasonic Corp factory in Buffalo, New York. Panasonic makes the photo-voltaic cells used in the solar tiles.

Tesla said it will be installing equipment in the Buffalo factory over the next few months.

Gleaner

 

IDB Lead Investment Officer Stefan Wright speaks at the Gleaner Editors’ Forum on Tuesday, May 9, 2017.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) said it would consider financing projects for waste to energy in Jamaica, but cautioned that the cost of doing so would have to be around US$0.12 per kilowatt hour for it to make sense to consumers.

“We could finance waste to energy,” but “at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to the cost. I think that’s a key component which I don’t know if it has been fully analysed,” said lead investment officer at the IDB, Stefan Wright.

He said that if solar energy was currently being produced at US$0.12/kWh,”it makes no sense financing waste-to-energy at US$0.20/kWh because JPS [Jamaica Public Service Company] won’t buy that.”

Renewable energy is a focus of the Inter-American Investment Corporation, the private-sector arm of the IDB which last year reorganised three of its four private-sector windows specifically to be more strategic, align with the IDB’s country strategy and become more effective in terms of how the Bank deploys private sector resources, Wright told a Gleaner Editors’ Forum on Tuesday.

“We are working with entities in Jamaica now to finance renewable energy projects,” said Wright, noting that Jamaica has done a good job in bringing more renewable energy on the grid and reducing the 90 per cent oil bill, “and we are very much interested in partnering with those entities who want financing”.

Referring to Jamaica’s main garbage-disposal sites, including the Riverton dump in Kingston, Wright said it would be good to be able to use those resources in a more environmentally friendly way, “but at the end of the day it must make sense for consumers”.

He also pointed to the Government’s efforts, announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness with the formation of an enterprise team in October last year, to manage the State’s waste-to-energy programme, contracting out of solid-waste management and collection and divestment of the Riverton City landfill.

At that time, Holness was quoted as saying that the Government had received more than 30 expressions of interests to either bid on the waste-to-energy programme or to collect solid waste or both.

“We stand ready to finance projects which come out of that,” said the investment officer, noting that after the tender process is completed, entities wishing to invest in the facility would seek financing from the IDB to make the business a reality.

Key Requirements

However, he pointed out that one of the key requirements is that such entities engaging in such energy supply programmes must obtain power purchase agreements from the JPS.

“So we are certainly willing to help to participate in that,” he said. “We will finance any sustainable project which is helping to generate economic growth,” he added, noting that the IDB was offering loans between US$5 million and US$200 million per project, “and we don’t have any country limits now in terms of what we can finance”.

Wright said “we are looking at a number of projects and renewable energy and waste energy is something that we would certainly consider.”

General manager for the IDB’s Caribbean Country Department, Therese Turner-Jones, who also participated in the forum, said she has been to a series of renewable-energy conferences where private-sector interests offer various solutions, “and they look at the Caribbean as being ripe for investment because we’ve done so little”.

Comparing Jamaica with Hawaii, where the goal is 100 per cent renewables, Turner-Jones, noted that the US state is “almost there”.

“So it’s possible (for Jamaica) to do it. The technology exists,” she added.

JPS, which controls power distribution, is now reporting that renewables should account for around 12 per cent of its electricity production this year. Jamaica is aiming for a mix of 30 per cent by 2030.

Gleaner

In this November 2, 2016 photo, Energy Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley (left) and Chairman of Wigton Windfarm Duane Smith examine solar panels installed at a lab on the wind farm complex in Manchester. Jamaica received special mention in a new global energy report for its renewables programme.
The country saved around US$18 million (J$2.3 billion) in oil imports based on the 80 megawatts of renewable energy projects implemented last year, based on estimates utilising Government data.

Concurrently, the addition of the 80MW of renewable energy saved 800,000 metric tonnes in toxic carbon emissions, according to the energy ministry.

These factors allowed Jamaica to breathe cleaner air and climb in the Global Energy Architecture Performance Index (EAPI). It’s unknown whether these emission savings were converted into carbon credits.

Jamaica improved six spots to 92 worldwide to become a global case study for energy diversification, according to the annual EAPI study produced by the World Economic Forum.

Trading partner and oil producer Trinidad & Tobago inched up one spot to 109, from 110 a year earlier.

The Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report 2017 indicated that Jamaica, Mexico and Uruguay, all developing countries, made strides in their energy sector performance since 2009.

In Jamaica last year, Wigton Wind Farm III added 24MW of renewable capacity, BMR Windfarm added 36.3MW, and WRB Content Solar, 20MW.

“[It resulted] in a cut in CO2 emissions of at least 800,000 metric tonnes between 2014 and 2016,” stated the energy ministry in response to Financial Gleaner queries.

“The 80.30MW of renewable energy added to the grid represents a reduction of 413,781 barrels of oil imported per year,” the ministry said via email.

Another 100MW of capacity is expected to be developed by energy investors this year, for which the bidding process is under way, it added.

Jamaica is pressing ahead with its renewable programme even as oil prices remain subdued.

The price of oil averaged US$43.33 for WTI crude and US$43.74 for Brent crude in 2016, according to the US-based Energy Information Administration statistics.

The ministry credited Jamaica’s energy successes to the aggressive implementation of the National Energy Policy – NEP 2009-2030. In ensuring that Jamaica’s energy infrastructure is as efficient, safe and competitive as possible, the NEP has within its plan of action the formulation of a new Electricity Act which provides for and promotes renewables in the energy sector, added the ministry.

The amended electricity law, in effect since 2015, was also a deliverable of the Energy Security Efficiency and Enhancement Project. That programme also oversaw the delivery of the natural gas policy and regulations, and the smart grid road map.

Jamaica appears set to surpass its initial target of 20 per cent renewables by 2030 under the restructuring of its energy mix away from crude. The ministry said the goal has already been reset higher to 30 per cent renewables by 2030.

“All things remaining equal, Jamaica will surpass the ’20 in 30′ target and we are now aiming for ’30 in 30′,” the ministry said.

The energy efficiency programme has so far saved the government $131.5 million, which translates to a 2,768-metric tonne reduction in carbon emissions.

Gleaner

From left: Renford Smith, Marcus Grant and Alan Searchwell connecting the electrical components of a solar panel at the Wigton Renewable Energy Training Lab in Rose Hill, Manchester, recently.

As the debate intensifies over the possible rate increases which could face Jamaicans as more and more customers leave the Jamaica Public Service Company’s (JPS) grid, there are calls for a collaborative approach to the issue.

Manager of the Grid Performance Department at the JPS, Lincoy Small, says the various stakeholders must engage in dialogue to find an approach to provide the cheapest source of electricity to Jamaicans.

According to Small, it cannot be a matter of either renewable energy (RE) or staying on the JPS grid but a combination of the two.

“JPS is not telling people that renewable is not the way to go, because JPS even operates renewable facilities, but the key thing is to get them (grid and RE) working together in tandem to come up with the best synergy of what is best for the customer and what is best for the country,” said Small.

His comments came as Robert Wright, president of the Jamaica Solar Energy Association, told The Sunday Gleaner he has no desire for Jamaicans to leave the JPS grid.

Grid Stability

Wright said he strongly believes RE should be maximised and not just limited to large systems scattered across the island, but smaller systems distributed right across the country.

“When you have these smaller systems spread across the country it provides for better grid stability, and also it allows for more people to participate in clean energy as opposed to simply relying on large solar farms,” said Wright.

But Small said, based on experience due to the unpredictability of RE, the JPS sometimes has to resort to load shedding when customers jump on and off the grid.

He reiterated that JPS’s customers could face additional cost if the impact of RE on the grid is not handled carefully.

“So we are accepting solar power from the customers and as soon as something happens it drops off, and does so much quicker than the grid can even respond on some of those occasions, and as a result you have to be running expensive machines that are quicker to deal with those sun drop-offs or have to shed people’s light,” argued Small.

“And if you run these expensive machines or shed people’s light it means the overall cost to run the grid is going to be absorbed by the customer; you are going to have to pay for a more expensive energy source.”

The JPS executive said the company is actively seeking to incorporate new technology to deal with the loss of the intermittent renewable resources.

But Wright argued that the good news for Jamaicans is that the cost of RE is declining rapidly, enabling it to compete with traditional sources of energy.

“A system that a typical household would need in Jamaica two years ago would cost $1 million; that same system today cost $500,000, so we have seen a significant drop in prices,” said Wright.

“Also what is revolutionary is that the cost of batteries has gone down a lot, so now, even more than before, we will be able to offer that to residential customers at an affordable price.

“What is becoming more available now are systems called micro-inverters, and these allow you to install a very simple rooftop system which is cheaper, faster to install and is more appropriate for affordable housing developments, and so on.”

Batteries Expensive

But Small countered that with solar and wind on average only available for 20 and 35 per cent of the day, respectively, and the cost of buying and replacing batteries being expensive, it might be cheaper for customers to get their power from the JPS grid when RE is not available.

“It (solar) is a good thing to have, but it cannot be operated in isolation, and that is something a lot of people in the solar business not telling their customers,” said Small.

“Because even if you get a panel or a wind turbine and you get the battery, you are going to need a grid to at least charge up that battery for the 80 per cent of the time you are without solar or the 65 per cent of the time you are without wind.

“Plus, you will have to be replacing the battery every two to three years for full value, and batteries cost much more than solar panels.”

Small said the JPS is focused on supplying power as cheaply as possible so persons can take the cheap power from the grid rather than go buy a battery and use the solar power and the wind when it is available.

With Jamaica being a signatory to the Paris Climate Change Agreement, the utilisation of more RE forms part of the National Energy Policy which sees the country aiming to have 30 per cent RE penetration by 2030.

The country is currently at approximately 10 per cent of the quota, with roughly 300 net billing customers (those who have solar systems which allows them to consume energy and sell surplus) and around 10 larger customers.

Gleaner

KellyTomblinL20120417RB

For full article with audio clips click here

President of the Jamaica Public Service Company, JPS, Kelly Tomblin, is rejecting claims that she’s using scare tactics to keep businesses from turning to renewable sources of energy.

In an interview yesterday on Nationwide This Morning, Chief Executive Officer of Solar Buzz Jamaica, Jason Robinson, accused JPS of using ‘scare tactics’.

This was in response to comments attributed to Ms. Tomblin in a recent Gleaner report that the company could be forced to raise electricity rates if its top customers leave the grid.

But speaking with Nationwide News yesterday, Ms. Tomblin sought to clarify the comments she made to the Gleaner newspaper.

She’s insisting she’s not using a scare tactics.

Ms. Tomblin says she would prefer companies stay on the power grid.

This, as the intermittent use of the grid is more of a burden on JPS than if a company were to be removed completely.

And, Ms. Tomblin says the JPS doesn’t build LNG plants contrary to Mr Robinson’s claim.

He’d said the light and power company has been offering to set up small LNG plants for large companies, which would also take them off the grid.

She’s also refuting his claim that JPS’s rates are going up.

Nationwide