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UTech Solar System Doubles as Teaching Aid

Solar panels installed by Alternative Power Sources on the Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Education and Liberal Studies buildings at the University of Technology, Jamaica.

Installatioin of a huge solar energy system at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) earlier this year has not only helped slash the institution’s electricity bill, it was used to train engineering students.

Approximately 30 students worked different shifts on a third of the 100-kilowatt project which Alternative Power Sources (APS) boss Damian Lyn said can produce 450 kilowatt hours daily.

“That amounts to approximately between $500,000 and $550,000 a month in energy cost savings,” Lyn told the Jamaica Observer. “So it’s a very good investment for the campus.”

Lyn said his company designed the system which was installed in three phases — first on the front lawn, which was fitted with 22 panels providing a total of five kilowatts; then on the engineering building where 160 250-watt panels were installed to provide 40 kilowatts; and finally on the faculty of education and liberal studies building, which has been outfitted with 220 250-watt panels providing 55 kilowatts.

The project, Lyn explained, is being funded by Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) and UTech and has the capability of live interaction, “meaning that you can use a cellphone to see the production of the panels”.

The university has a control room from where administrators can see the production.

“So that further advances the fact that it will become a teaching aid,” Lyn emphasised.

The project, he said, took about eight weeks to be completed. However, he pointed out that it could have been finished much more quickly if his team was not working with the students.

“But, we made a commitment that we would teach the students, and we offered an internship programme for the summer.”

That involved the company rotating the students on its projects.

“The UTech project was a good project because it’s good when you see students come out and you’re actually teaching them something,” he said as he pointed to other training programmes being run by APS, among them one with the Vector Technology Institute to train photovoltaic installers.

“It’s a course certified by the Electronics Technicians Association in the US. It is certified to the point where you can take the US exams, qualify and use that to get a job in the US should you migrate,” Lyn explained.

“That programme started three years ago and we have worked closely with UTech and UWI (University of the West Indies) in different programmes that involve renewable energy and [in] assisting and guiding the students,” he added.

“APS has never been afraid. The industry is bigger than APS. What we want to ensure is that installations are done properly,” he said.

“We think that is our contribution to getting an industry going where we think there is room for growth and to provide employment, because a lot of the engineers coming out don’t have a job.”

The scale of the UTech project was not unusual for the 11-year-old APS, which Lyn said is the oldest solar company in Jamaica.

He referenced the company’s installation of a 100-kilowatt system at the American International School of Kingston, which he said was the first of its kind to acquire a licence to sell power back to the JPS grid; another 100-kilowatt system installed at a villa in Discovery Bay; and his current 72-kilowatt project at Old Fort Village residential complex in St Ann.

“That is major in the sense that it is the first time in Jamaica that we are going to have a townhouse complex that is totally off JPS,” Lyn said, adding that the system will achieve another first in the use of industrial batteries and that it will be an entirely green project.

As part of his crusade to get more houses and institutions off the JPS grid, Lyn has installed solar systems in a number of schools, among them Jones Town, Maldon, and Chatsworth primary, and is set to provide St Andrew High with a 100-kilowatt system.

“We recognise that the schools need that type of help, and [lowering the cost of energy] will be good for the Government,” he said.




Category/ies:Jamaica News, News, Renewable Energy, Solar Energy.
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