Sun-splashed, wind-swept Jamaica positioned itself Thursday to nearly double the amount of electricity it generates from renewable sources.
During a ceremony in Kingston, three companies focused on wind and solar energy signed power purchase agreements worth roughly $200 million with Jamaica's sole electricity distributor and also received licenses from the government.
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The two planned wind installations and a solar energy project are expected to eventually add 80 megawatts of electricity to the Caribbean island's grid.
Albert Gordon, director general of Jamaica's utility regulator, said the country should derive 11 percent of its power from renewable sources when the projects are expected to come on line in 2016. Renewables make up about 6 percent now.
Jamaican officials touted the agreements as a milestone for the island, where a near total dependence on imported fuel for oil-generated power and soaring electricity costs have long hobbled a struggling economy. Consumers pay 42 cents per kilowatt hour in Jamaica, as much as four times more than electricity on the U.S. mainland.
"We have been going through some rough times but we are seeing the light," Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell said as he thanked investors.
Kelly Tomblin, president and CEO of Jamaica Public Service Co. Ltd., said the utility is committed to developing the capacity to support integration of the new renewable projects.
"We are going to have generation that ramps up and down, responds and allows us to get the maximum out of those renewables," she pledged.
The planned solar project for central Clarendon parish is expected to deliver 20 megawatts of power using some 98,000 photovoltaic panels and is touted as the biggest photovoltaic installation in the English-speaking Caribbean. It's to be developed by WRB Enterprises Inc. of Tampa, Florida, which operates the power utility on the Caribbean island of Grenada.
Another U.S. company, Blue Mountain Renewables LLC, is planning a 36-megawatt wind farm on 86 acres in St. Elizabeth parish.
Wigton Wind Farm, a subsidiary of Petroleum Corp. of Jamaica, plans a 24-megawatt expansion at its 38.7-megawatt wind farm on a hilltop in the central parish of Manchester.
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