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Jamaica to lead Caribbean wind -- RES and NEG Micon 20 MW

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A power purchase agreement (PPA) for a 20.7 MW wind farm on Jamaica is nearly in place for what will be largest wind project on any Caribbean island so far. The project developer, Britain's Renewable Energy Systems (RES), is close to finalising the contract with local utility JPSCo, according to Roy Kolader of Curaçao-based wind developer Delta Caribbean, formed by Dutch utility Delta Nutsbedrijven and the Dutch division of NEG Micon. Plans are to use 23, 900 kW NEG Micon turbines at Wigton on the island's Manchester plateau, which has average wind speeds of over 8 m/s.

If the PPA is signed within the next month, the project can be built by the fourth quarter of 2002, according to Raymond Wright of state owned oil company Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ). PCJ was mandated in 1995 to develop alternative power generation using indigenous power sources. Wright says the project will not only provide economic gain by cutting ever increasing fuel costs, but it will also reduce emissions and even turn a profit.

Estimated costs are close to $23 million, Wright says, adding that PCJ and RES will invest at least $1 million each. Most of the financing is expected to be debt-equity. Power from the project will be sold to JPSCo to supply the grid, according to Kolader. JPSCo declines to comment before contracts are final.

High oil prices in recent months have highlighted the need for renewable energies in the Caribbean where fuel imports for thermal generation are high. The problem in Jamaica is accentuated by the demand of its energy intensive bauxite-alumina industry. Some 400 MW of extra capacity over ten years is needed on top of the current 694 MW.

PCJ chose to the Wigton project "because we believe that wind is the most competitive of the renewables," Wright says. Jamaica has an estimated 60 MW in wind potential.

The government has already started its renewables promotion policies. JPSCo must pay up to 15% above the average fossil fuel price for renewables, although to date this has not been effective in any project developed by independent power producers. Although US power company Mirant has agreed to buy 80% of JPSCo in a deal expected to close in early April, this obligation will not change, Wright says.

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