Ground is to be broken tomorrow at Paradise Park, Westmoreland, for what is being described as the largest solar-powered plant in the Caribbean. The 37-megawatt facility is estimated to cost US$60 million (J$7.5 billion) and is being built by a consortium of international and Jamaican partners.
The principals behind the plant are French company Neoen, which is described as an independent producer of renewable energy; Rekamniar Frontier Ventures, an emerging market-energy developer founded by Jamaican Angella Rainford; and MPC Capital, with headquarters in Germany and which is described as an asset and investment management company.
Rainford, the managing director of Rekamniar Frontier Ventures, disclosed to The Gleaner that construction of the plant would take approximately 12 months, with commissioning and connection to the national grid scheduled to take place in December next year. She said that some 200 persons would be employed during the construction phase, while there would be roughly 30 full time employees during the plant's 20-year life span.
"We look forward to participating in future RFPs (requests for proposals) held by the Jamaican authorities and would be interested in expanding or building additional solar farms in Jamaica," Rainford said when asked about future projects.
The solar-powered plant boasts some special features. Apart from being described as the largest of its kind in the Caribbean, the principals said that it would deliver the "lowest cost renewable energy to Jamaica".
Additionally, they highlighted that as a solar-powered plant, it is environmentally friendly and would help to reduce Jamaica's carbon footprint.
"Further, it will represent U$250 million in foreign reserve savings over the life of the plant's operation (20 years) for Jamaica," Rainford said.
She noted that the project showcased the powerful combination of a local developer and international expertise.
Rainford, as lead developer, who has studied and worked overseas, is now using this knowledge and network base to bring investments to Jamaica.
Following an RFP by the Office of Utilities Regulation, Rekamniar Frontier Ventures joined forces with French group Neoen in May 2016 to form the Eight Rivers Energy Company to mount a successful bid. Eight Rivers emerged as the preferred bid from 19 project proposals received by the Office of Utilities Regulation.
In September last year, energy minister Dr Andrew Wheatley was quoted in the Caribbean Journal as saying: "This will be the lowest cost ever for solar power in Jamaica. It will also advance the Government's major policy objective, namely, the diversification of Jamaica's energy-supply mix to reduce cost and dependence on imported oil."