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Jamaican Gov’t explores use of solar energy in public schools

Jamaica, with the help of the Spanish government, will be exploring the possibility of introducing solar energy in public schools as the country seeks to cut electricity bills at these institutions.

(L-R) Minister of Mining and Energy James Robertson, Education Minister Andrew Holness, and Spanish Ambassador to Jamaica Jesus Silva sign the agreement to conduct a feasibility study on the use of solar energy in schools at the Ministry of Education's 2 National Heroes Circle offices in Kingston on Wednesday. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)
(L-R) Minister of Mining and Energy James Robertson, Education Minister Andrew Holness, and Spanish Ambassador to Jamaica Jesus Silva sign the agreement to conduct a feasibility study on the use of solar energy in schools at the Ministry of Education’s 2 National Heroes Circle offices in Kingston on Wednesday. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

Minister of Education Andrew Holness, Minister of Mining and Energy James Robertson, Spanish Ambassador Jesus Silva and general operations manager of CALA Telecom Limited, David Rodriguez, on Wednesday signed an agreement to conduct the feasibility study on the use of solar energy in schools.


The Spanish government will provide a grant of 97,350 Euro, while CALA Telecom Limited will conduct the actual study within a two-month period, which started yesterday.


Spain was last year ranked as the leading European country in the production of solar energy.


“Jamaican schools spend approximately $500 million per year on electricity. That is a significant cost if you were to add in telephone, water, and other costs and they would eventually end up spending almost $ 1.5 billion on maintenance of schools,” Holness told the signing ceremony.


The study, among other things, will evaluate the technical and infrastructure conditions of public schools in Jamaica as well as the financial cost or benefit of the introduction of solar energy systems.


Thirty-four schools were selected from the six educational regions for the study. Of the total, 17 schools were selected from regions four through six – the parishes of St James, Hanover, Westmoreland, St Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon and St Catherine.


The other 17 schools were divided among regions one to three – Kingston and St Andrew, St Thomas, Portland, St Mary, St Ann and Trelawny.


Schools were selected based on size, location, and management structure.


“We wanted to be sure that we covered the spectrum, so we covered schools that were large and we had schools that were small. We looked at schools that had strong management; we looked at schools that were located in valleys, and schools that were located on hilly terrain to account for the positioning of the sun, to make sure that we can maximise solar energy,” Holness said.


Upon the completion of this study, the Ministry of Mining and Energy as well as the Spanish government will make further preparations for the implementation of the solar energy systems in the schools.


In the meantime, Holness said that while the use of solar energy in public schools is to reduce energy consumption and manage electricity bills, the government also wants to develop a consumer who is more aware of alternative energies.


The use of alternative energy at schools, however, would not be new to Jamaica as Irwin High in St James has been utilising energy from the sun to complement its electricity supply for more than a year now.


The solar energy system currently powers all the institution’s security lights, computer laboratory, equipped with about 70 units, and part of the administrative block, which has reduced the institution’s electricity bill by 15 to 20 per cent monthly.


At present, 90 per cent of the electricity generated in Jamaica is derived from imported oil.
However, with the country’s oil bill moving from US$813 million in 2003 to US$2 billion in 2008, the administration has been pushing for the use of alternative energy sources.


Source: Jamaica Observer



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