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Ground broken for largest solar plant in the Caribbean

Published:Wednesday | December 13, 2017 | 12:00 AMMark Titus

While Jamaica continues to lead the rest of the world in energy diversification, Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley says that his Government does not intend to become complacent but will intensify its efforts to reduce the cost of energy

"I think we have got accustomed to being the leaders, [however], we are not going to be satisfied with being leaders anymore, but to be trendsetters," Wheatley said yesterday.

The energy minister was speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the 37MW solar power plant to be constructed at Paradise Park, Westmoreland, which is expected to be the largest solar-powered plant in the Caribbean and will offer the lowest cost renewable energy to the region at US8.53 cents per kilowatt.

"We are on the right trajectory to ensure that we not only supply poor people - residential customers, with lower-cost energy - but the productive sector as well," Wheatley said.

"Jamaica is in a position that we can safely say that we are definitely reducing our carbon footprint. In fact, we need to be trading carbon credit," the minister continued. "Affordable energy is what is going to fuel growth."

The power plant is being built by a consortium, including French company Neoen, an independent producer of renewable energy; Rekamniar Frontier Ventures, an emerging market-energy developer founded by Jamaican Angella Rainford; and German-based company MPC Capital, an asset and investment-management company, and will cost approximately US$60 million (J$7.5 billion). It is set for completion by December 2018.

Following a request for proposal from the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), 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 OUR.

"As a Jamaican, this means so much to me," said Rainford during her presentation. "I remember studying by candlelight because light would go off, but I am superproud of my country (for the progress in energy diversification)."

Approximately 200 persons will be employed during the construction phase, while there will be 30 full-time employees during the plant's 20-year lifespan.