Arial view of the installed solar panels atop the Willowdene Group of School roof located at 58 Brunswick Avenue, Spanish Town, Saint Catherine.
Arial view of the installed solar panels atop the Willowdene Group of School roof located at 58 Brunswick Avenue, Spanish Town, Saint Catherine.

First Jamaican Adventist school goes solar

News February 12, 2024

The Willowdene Group of Schools (WGS) is Jamaica’s first fully solar energy-efficient Seventh-day Adventist school.

The $11.5-million solar energy solution gift was officially handed over to the school from the WGS Alumni Association on February 2.

The private Adventist school solar power initiative comes at the same time the Ministry of Education and Youth is facilitating 30 government schools becoming solar efficient soon.

“We are excited to provide a sustainable energy solution that will contribute to Willowdene’s growth and benefit both current and future students,” said Donmayne Gyles, WGS Alumni Association president. “The partnership between the WGS Alumni Association and the Central Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists exemplifies the spirit of collaboration, vision, and innovation.”

Gyles also thanked Cecil Foster, managing director of FosRich Group of Companies, and his team for partnering with the alumni association in the venture.

“Without FosRich, this project would not be the success it has turned out to be.”

The WGS Alumni president explained that implementing a solar system will bring numerous benefits to the community as it embraces sustainability by harnessing clean and renewable energy sources, reducing the school’s carbon footprint, and promoting environmental consciousness among students and staff.

“Furthermore,” said Gyles, “the solar system will ensure a reliable power supply, allowing for an improved teaching and learning experience.”

The Solar PV installation boasts of a grid-tie system comprising a total generating capacity of 64.36 kilowatts of DC power and a total inverter capacity of 55 kilowatts, which is expected to yield multiple benefits for the school, explained Jodie Ann Graham, sales manager at FosRich.

Additionally, “the average consumption for the Willowdene Group of Schools was approximately 6073kWh; with the solar PV system installed, the units will cover 75 per cent -85 per cent of the full load.”

Graham expressed that the system has a return on investment (ROI) of three years and a warranty package on the panels of 12 years. The inverter is for five years, and other equipment is for two to three years.

Principal Peter Williams said the cost savings will significantly benefit the WGS’s approximately 700-student population plus staff.

“Our electricity bill alone for the past few months has climbed to over $800,000 monthly. Therefore, the cost savings generated by the transition to solar energy will free up resources that can be allocated to other areas, enhancing the overall educational experience for students,” explained Williams.

Jodie Ann Graham also divulged that the solar system is grid-tied and synchronises with the JPS (Jamaica Public Service) grid. This type of system allows for an automatic supply changeover to JPS, which acts as a back-up supply when there is lower solar supply (overcast day) than the school’s energy demand. Also, during the holiday seasons, when school is closed, the excess production from the solar system can be sold to JPS under a standard offer contract net billing system arrangement between the Willowdene Group of Schools and JPS.

Adding his praise for the solar energy efficient gift, Pastor Nevail Barrett, chairman of the school board, said the gesture not only exemplified WGS Alumni’s enduring commitment to the school, but would also empower the institution to embrace environmentally responsible practices that align with its educational mission.

Read the full story here