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.
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.
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.