Saturday, August 8, 2009

"Jamaican Observer:" Program with Spain of Solar Energy in Public School

Environment

Schools welcome news of solar energy feasibility study

BY ANIKA RICHARDS Environment Watch writer editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

PUBLIC schools have welcomed news of Government's move to explore the use of solar energy at 34 of their institutions, at a time when many are paying as much as half-a million dollars for electricity monthly.

Thirty-four schools, among them Munro College, have been selected from the six educational regions for the feasibility study being conducted by CALA Telecom Limited and for which the Spanish government is providing a grant of euro97,350.

(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 offices in Kingston on Wednesday, June 24. (File photo)

Of the 34 schools selected, 17 were from regions four through six - St James, Hanover, Westmoreland, St Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon and St Catherine. The others were divided among regions one to three - Kingston and St Andrew, St Thomas, Portland, St Mary, St Ann and Trelawny.

"I was very excited (when I heard). I even asked the gentleman (individual that did the preliminary study) to send back an estimate as to what it would cost if we were to do it ourselves," said Branford Gayle, principal of Munro College where as much as $500,000 is spent on electricity each month.
Eugenia Spence, principal of Petersfield High School in Westmoreland, echoed his sentiment.

"It would help us to save a lot where energy is concerned, especially in the long term. Much of the expenses that we now spend for electricity could go to other needed resources," she said, noting that they currently spend in excess of $400,000 on electricity monthly.

"I think it is about time we cut back on expenditure in terms of electricity, we have upgraded our school in terms of e-learning-more computers, more electrical gadgets - so we are consuming more electricity. So this comes in very kindly and it will be done to the benefit of the school," added principal of Edwin Allen High School, Everton Walters.

Irwin High School has been using solar power since 2006 with funding from the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica. Despite not meeting the capacity for which it was built, principal Aldin Bellinfantie said it has proven beneficial.

"It is going very well. It was built to deal with 20 to 25 per cent of our energy capacity. It is now taking care of no more than about five per cent. That is not to say it is not doing what it is supposed to do; it is doing exactly what it is supposed to do but when we installed it we didn't have three computer labs that is now drawing massive amounts of energy," he said.

It is for this reason that Bellinfantie has welcomed news of the feasibility study.

"I am overjoyed; long time it should have been this way. We are selling our sunshine; that's why tourists come here. (But) there are other uses for it and this is just one of them," he told Environment Watch.

At least one environmentalist added his word of praise for the Government's efforts while others believe the experimentation stages of solar energy are long over and implementation should be the order of the day.

"My guess is this is an effort on the part of the government to cut down the JPS (Jamaica Public Service) bills, producing solar technology in the schools. It sounds like a very good idea," said Peter Espeut, former head of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation and who has served as a school board chairman. "It's also a very wise idea not to rush into something like this without doing a feasibility study."

But Franklyn McDonald believes the benefits of solar energy are widely known and therefore Jamaica needs to implement it.

"Solar energy should not be something we see as an experiment. It has been proven and it is good for the environment. We need to get out of the mindset of experimentation," said the director of the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica and co-ordinator of the Institute of Sustainable Development. "We should be at a point where we can see these Alternate Energy solution, water, and energy conservation tools in the corner hardware store and the local extension arrangements supported by incentives, not from exotic state agencies."

This study will assess 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.


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