MALVERN, St Elizabeth — Stakeholders, including two Government ministers, are beaming that Jamaica’s first solar-powered library located in the deep-rural St Elizabeth community of Malvern will bring enormous benefits and savings.
BMR Energy — owned by the Richard Branson-led Virgin Group — operators of a wind farm in Potsdam (Malvern area), made this possible through a $3.1-million donation to the Jamaica Library Service for the four-kilowatt solar system.
The system is complete with a five-kilowatt peak output Tesla Powerwall, providing 13.5 kW usable energy.
Addressing the virtual commissioning of the new system on Wednesday, Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Daryl Vaz said the project will bring educational advancement and boost the Government’s renewable energy targets.
“This is a laudable initiative and I want to commend BMR Energy for not just enabling Jamaica to meet our renewable energy targets, but also for powering the future of Malvern through investments and education,” he said.
“In the time of a pandemic while so many students are utilising online platforms for classes, libraries are facilitating the educational advancement of our students through the provision of much-needed Internet access and computer services,” he added.
He said the increased demand for the services of libraries means greater energy use and high electricity bills, which makes the donation of the solar system timely.
According to Vaz, six St Elizabeth communities, including Malvern, have been approved by the Universal Service Fund “to accommodate public Wi-Fi hot spots in short order”.
“We anticipate that by the end of the financial year the community of Black River will be the second public Wi-Fi hot spot in St Elizabeth,” he added.
At the same time, he said the provision of solar systems are integral to the development of rural communities.
“With the incorporation of renewable energy [it] reduces Government’s spend on electricity and increases efficiency in the use of energy,” he said.
Minister Education, Youth and Information Fayval Williams welcomed the move to install the solar system at the library, which will directly benefit at least eight schools.
“[We] fully support positive partnerships with companies such as BMR Energy, particularly as you carry out your corporate social responsibility… There [are] aspects in schools operations and in the provision of resources to school and students; we acknowledge that the Government cannot do it alone,” she said.
“High utility bills are among the most expensive operational costs for many educational institutions,” she added.
BMR Energy’s Chief Executive Officer Bruce Levy explained that the company has been active in Jamaica since 2013 when it commenced planning to build its 36-megawatt wind farm in St Elizabeth.
Levy said the installation at the Malvern Community Library “is the latest initiative in the company’s efforts to contribute to improving education and community development”.
“During those years, in addition to building and operating the wind farm, we have tried to be a good corporate citizen and developed a very collaborative relationship with the community in designing and implementing neutrally agreeable initiatives [and] to date we have contributed over $100 million to projects focused on education, safety and communities,” he said.
“This project brings the latest technology of renewable energy and energy storage to the library and can serve to power the way forward for this library,” he added.
BMR says it will maintain the solar system for a period of three years and will train the Jamaica Library Service (JLS) technical staff in the maintenance of the unit.
Members of the community will be able to charge their mobile devices, leave their toddlers in a designated area and learn more about renewable energy as they continue to enjoy and utilise all the library’s facilities.
Paul Lalor, chairman Jamaica Library Board, in commending BMR Energy for its contribution, said he is hopeful that more of the 112 public libraries in Jamaica will be powered by renewable energy.
“It would be ideal for us to outfit as many of our libraries with solar power and we hope that there are benefactors and donors in other communities who will follow BMR’s lead and assist us in this regard in the years to come,” he said.