Wigton Wind Farm: Origins and Future Development of Wind Energy in Jamaica

Wigton Wind Farm, located on Wigton Plantation in Manchester, has a history typical of most large companies like JAMALCO: it’s located on Lands that used to belong to a Plantation owner, in this case a man from Scotland named M. Wigton. His grave marks land that was once part of St. Elizabeth. The parish of Manchester didn’t exist officially until 1819.

But fast forward to the Wind Farm itself, officially register as the WWFL (Wigton Wind Farms Limited), possibly the largest Wind Turbine Installation in the Caribbean. The WWFL is a subsidiary of the PCJ (Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica). The PCJ manages the WWFL on behalf of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining and has the following Board of Directors:

  • Mr. Ian Kelly – Chairman

  • Mr. Andral Shirley

  • Ms. Donna Dietrich

  • Mr. Mark Williams

  • Mr. Adrian St. Louis

  • Ms. Yvonne Barrett-Edwards

The WWFL was conceptualized years ago by Dr Raymond Wright, former Head of the PCJ but began its life in April 12, 2000 with the aim to boosts Jamaica’s usage of Alternative Energy and aims to champion and encourage the use of Wind Energy in Jamaica among its citizens, both in Large scale installation as well as for personal Power.

The original plant, Wigton I, was originally built by NEG Micon, a Danish/Dutch, a Wind Turbine Manufacturer that was formed, coincidentally, in the same year I went to UTECH: 1997. It was the result of a merger between Nordtank Energy Group (NEG) and Micon. Later in 2004 they were merged with a Danish Wind Turbine manufacturer named Vestas Wind Systems A/S.

Vestas Wind Systems A/S, located at Alsvej 21, 8940 Randers SV, Denmark (Phone: +459-730-0000)  produces Wind Turbines not only for their native Denmark but also for German, who’re big on Wind Power as they transiton away from Nuclear Reactors and the USA, which has plans for such large installations in Prairie country and off the Coast on the Western Seaboard. Jamaica happens to be their largest Caribbean customer.

The original WWFL, which I’ll refer to as Wigton I Project, was totally funded by the PetroCaribe Fund received from the Colombian Government in an Oil for Equity Loan arrangement, had the following Specs:

  • Twenty three (23) 900 kW NEG-Micon NM 52/900 Wind Turbines

  • 20.7 MW Total combined output

  • 54.4 GWh Average Power Output per annum

The Turbines themselves had the following Specs:

  • Cut in Wind Speed: 3 m/ s

  • Hub Height:  49 m

  • Rotor Diameter : 52.2 m

Note: Cut in Wind Speeds is the speed at which the rotors start turning.

All that was ok, with the WWFL selling their Power under an IPP (Independent Power Provider) agreement to the JPS Co (Jamaica Public Service Company). But their Mission Statement meant that they had to expand their capacity, as at 54.5GWh, they were really only contributing to 5% of Energy needs being supplied by Alternative Energy.

As part of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining ambition to increase Alternative Energy to meet 11% of Energy coming from Alternative Energy Resources, they began plans for Expansion.  So on Wednesday, March 17th, the then Minister of Energy and Mining, Paul Robertson broke ground for what I’ll refer to as Wigton II Project.

Funded again by the PetroCaribe Fund to the tune of US$49-million, the Wigton II Project had the following ambitions:

  • 18 Megawatts to the Wigton I project bringing the total to 38.7 megawatts.

  • 55 GWH enough to Power, roughly about 24,000 homes

  • 32,400 barrels of Oil saved valued at US$2.3 million

  • 45,954 Tonnes of carbon emissions reduction

Construction began in April 2010 and completed in December 2010, at which time it was fully commissioned into Service.  The Specs for the Wigton II Project are as follows:

  • Nine (9) 2000 KW Vestas V80 Wind Turbines

  • 18 MW Total combined output

  • 47.3 GWh Average Power Output per annum

The Turbines themselves had the following Specs:

  • Cut in Wind Speed: 4 m/s

  • Hub Height:  67 m

  • Rotor Diameter : 80 m

In short, the Wigton II Project:

  • Has bigger, more modern Wind Turbines

  • Occupies less land space

  • Provides almost 86.96% of the Power of the original Wigton I Project

  • Brings the total number of Wind Turbines to 32

  • Doubles the capacity (Wigton I and II Projects) to about 38.7MW

  • Generates some 101.7 GWh of Power per annum to the JPS Grid

Return on investment has also been as expected as it relates to savings on Oil and profitability in General:

  • JA$$240.6 million for Fiscal Year March 2011 to March 3, 2012

  • JA$58.3 Million increase on the projected $182.3 million in net earnings

This is a big improvement, indicating that the company has finally hit its stride, as since April 2004 it was incurring losses up JA$272.4 to March 31 2010. Other interesting financial stats for Fiscal Year March 2011 to March 3, 2012 indicate a healthy cash flow:

  • Revenue increase of JA$324.7 million to $600 million

  • Administrative expenses increase from JA$284.4 million to JA$628 million

  • $119.6 million in Additional Income, most likely from Training Engineers in Wind Technology as part of its Mission Statement

In the process, WWFL is estimated to be saving the Government of Jamaica the following every five (5) months:

  • JA$229 million (US$2.67 million) in fuel purchases at a rate of US$98.06 per barrel

  • 27,253 barrels of Oil

  • 38,639 Tonnes of Carbon Emissions

2011 proved to be a good year in terms of recognition by their peers as well. The JIE (Jamaica Institute of Engineers) awarded the WWFL an Engineering Award for their Wigton II Project and the WWFL’s contribution to Wind Energy Engineering in Jamaica.

These encouraging achievements thus far beg for more from Wind Power, as obviously its potential isn’t being fully exploited in Jamaica. As such there are now plans afoot for a Wigton III Project involving an additional 24MW of Power by 2015, a 62% increase on the current 38.7MW generating capacity of Wigton I and Wigton II Projects combined. This translates to:

  • 72,141 barrels of Oil saved

  • 102,248 Tonnes of Carbon not generated

This increase in Capacity will result in a 12.5% of Energy being from Renewable sources in keeping with the Vision 2030 Roadmap. Plans are also well advanced for Wigton IV Project beyond that year.

Even Telecom Providers, such as Digicel, can become IPP under a Net Billing Facility with the JPS Co by mounting Wind Turbines on their Mobile Towers as prognosticated in my article Digicel Jamaica’s Alternative Energy Future – Increased Electricity Bills and Energy Sector Opportunities collide. Clearly more work needs to be done to involve more stakeholders in Wind Energy, especially householders and Farmers to exploit this resource!

Expect more from WWFL later in 2013 and for them to surpass their targets in 2015.

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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.