Patricia Isaacs-Green is thinking about introducing solar panels
at her new home in St Mary. The owner of Green Produce Farms in
Claremont, St Ann, who has seen enormous savings by running a 100 per
cent solar farm, is preaching solar to everyone.
Isaacs-Green started the farm in 2004 with 100 per cent solar powering. It cost her, at the time, US$40,000 to do it.
reflects, "(I) used to be the MD at McDonald's and I kept watching the
great amount of money for JPS (Jamaica Public Service) bills and I knew
that things were not heading in right direction. We were also very much
into energy conservation at McDonald's. I started looking for an
starting her own commercial venture four years ago, she says it has
become apparent that she made the right decision in installing solar
panels and a diesel-run generator.
laugh and smile. We now spend just $20,000 a month for the backup
generator each month. My residence JPS bill is more than that. At home
it's just me and my 88-year-old mother, but the last bill was $23,000."
access a homeowner's loan
can access a homeowner's loan from the National Housing Trust (NHT) to
install solar panels for energy conservation in their homes. Single
applicant may qualify for up to $1.2 million while co-applicants may
get $2.4. The maximum repayment period is 15 years.
For solar water heaters, the loan amount from the NHT is $100,000 at five per cent for five years.
a contributor age 37 who is a current (non-NHT) homeowner, who has been
contributing to the trust for over a decade, (yes, all these factors
are relevant), and who earns gross monthly salary of $50,000, the
monthly payback for $1.2 million for solar panel installation is
$11,700 monthly, at six per cent, for 15 years.
One can also make lump sum payments to reduce the principal amount owed at any time. But, how much solar power can this money buy you, and will it really reduce your energy costs?
According to Damien Lin of Alternative Power Sources in Kingston, it depends on how much energy you use.
habits vary, so a two-bedroom house might attract rates between $2,000
and $10,000 per month in relation to usage.
"We would have to do what is called an electrical consumption audit
first. And while kilowatt usage might be 500 kilowatts each month, it
does not indicate how much of that is light, the intensity of usage,
length of usage, what kinds of bulbs are being used, etc. An audit will
correctly determine your needs and pattern of usage. It will also
indicate what size our battery bank should be in the case of a power
Most alternative power systems, Lin says, are now battery-based,
replacing the generator with its expensive oil demands. Solar panels
are used to charge these batteries. Solar panels are photovoltaic
modules which produce electrons via sunlight.
Light shines on
these cells and generates electrons which, in turn, provide electrical
power. Each panel is limited by the wattage it provides and may very
from as little as 75 watts to much more.
The average wattage system installed in Jamaica is a 1.2 kilowatt
system, which provides 840 watts per sun peak hour, or 6,920 watts
during six to eight hours.
UTILISING THE hybrid system
Such a system is enough to run a small refrigerator (15 cubics), house
lights and bedroom ceiling fans. Basically, the run time of equipment
depends on the battery storage and weather conditions, which cause a
In most cases,
Jamaican residential consumers use their solar panels as backup to the
JPS-provided power system in their homes. Most do not have the money
for a full system.
The farm owned by Isaacs-Green is one example of an entity which is
completely off the JPS power grid. Green Produce Farms utilises a
hybrid system of photovoltaic cells and diesel generator.
Once the battery panels go below a certain voltage, the signal is given
to release power, but during the day when the sun is again up the
signal is given form the change back to solar. This limits the run time
on the diesel generator. If a normal generator runs for 12 hours, this
system will cut usage to around six hours.
Patricia Isaacs-Green notes that the price of oil has reached US$127 a
barrel, and that by the end of quarter, it could be US$145 per barrel.
"Its awful for business, especially those who need air conditioning."