A recent article in Go-Jamaica described how Canadian-based Solamon Energy Corporation is in preliminary discussions with the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining to build a $444.2 million solar power plant in the island nation. Such projects could help advance Jamaica’s goal of deriving 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.
Although the article goes on to describe the many benefits of this potential partnership (energy security, cleaner environment, job creation, etc.), it repeatedly points out that the deal is far from complete. Not only must Solamon and the Jamaican government hash out the finer details of the arrangement, but they must also receive approval from the Office of Utilities Regulation and the Jamaica Public Service Company.
Jamaica is not unique when it comes to “potential” solar projects in the pipeline that may or may not emerge one day. In almost every corner of the globe exist similar “projects,” awaiting approvals, agreements, and an endless string of loose promises whose deadlines are always “tomorrow.”
Against this backdrop it’s easy to dismiss solar deals that have yet to be finalized. What benefit are tomorrow’s arrangements to Jamaican citizens who must pay exorbitant prices for the electricity they consume in the here and now?
Jamaica’s Solar Revolution Is Already Here
Fortunately, Jamaica need not wait any longer. The solar revolution has already reached the island nation’s sandy shores. Even now, students who receive their solar PV installation training in the States are returning to Jamaica in order to apply their new found skills. And already, solar components have begun flooding into the country as homeowners, businesses, and municipal organizations begin exploring the undeniable benefits of switching from imported fossil fuel to free, local sunshine.
Florida’s US Solar Institute is one such company that has taken a keen interest in Jamaica’s solar future. As part of a pilot project launched last year, USSI began shipping parts, graduating professionals, and exporting know how to help Jamaica develop its own homegrown solar infrastructure.
Dean Nevers, owner of KonnexX, is a prime example of how this grassroots action is helping to make a difference. A graduate of USSI’s solar PV installer program, Nevers took his diploma back to Jamaica and began installing USSI’s pre-packaged, affordable solar systems on area roofs and on poles. There was no wait, no pending approval, and no deals to be made. The benefit was immediate – lower electricity bills for Nevers’ clients and job creation for his team.
The success of this pilot program prompted US Solar Institute to engage new stakeholders – including the Jamaican government. According to USSI’s Founder and President, Ray Johnson, “At nearly $0.43 per kilowatt-hour, Jamaica’s high electricity prices makes switching to solar attractive even without government intervention.” He adds, “However, Jamaica’s solar revolution will happen faster, cheaper, and easier if the country’s political will approaches that of the people.”