Solar Power

Energy efficiency upgrades saves Jamaican business $.5 million monthly

Chase Ramson’s decision to go green has been blessing the food and household product distribution company with another kind of green — just over half a million dollars in savings per month.

Two years ago, the company installed a 60 kW grid-tied PV solar system. It switched out its air conditioning units for inverter technology, and it insulated the roof of its offices and warehouse with sprayed foam. The result, according to Assistant General Manager Christopher Ramson, is an 80 per cent reduction in electricity bills.

“We changed out the air condition units to inverters, which helped us save quite a bit of money each month on our Jamaica Public Service (JPS) bills. We installed our solar panels, which also helped us to save money,” Ramson told the Jamaica Observer.

“Our electricity bills used to run close to $800,000 to a $1 million per month. Our bill is now $280,000 a month. The initiative to change out our air condition units has reduced the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) bill tremendously,” he continued.

Advertising and Marketing Manager Kathryn Silvera added that the company was able to pay for the inverters that accompany the PV system with the money they had saved in year one.

In addition to the financial benefits, Ramson explained that the foam insulation keeps the temperature inside the building much cooler than it previously was, which in turn improves productivity.

“The difference between the temperature on our loading ramp can be from 15 degrees cooler in our warehouse as a result of the insulation. There has been tremendous amount of reduction in heat, which is good overall for staff and workers in the warehouse. It improves productivity. It also improves the living condition. Our inventory is no longer 110 degrees. It has been a plus all around,” he said.

“It also strengthens the roof; it makes it more hurricane resistant, and seals it so we no longer have leaking problems,” Ramson added.

The assistant general manager said the $6-million energy efficiency project now generates more than the amount of energy needed to run the company.

“We now have the ability to sell electricity back to Jamaica Public Service,” he said. However, the company has decided against that route because of JPS’s net billing policy, which Ramson described as restrictive.

The utility company explains on its website that net billing allows JPS customers who own renewable energy systems to generate electricity for personal use and permits them to sell excess energy to JPS at wholesale or “avoided cost” prices set by the Office of Utilities Regulation. Approval requires a long list of documents, including proof of ownership of the renewable system as well as the property on which the equipment is to be installed. There are also costs assciated with the process, notably that for the net billing metre — $47,192, the utility disconnection switch — $25,000 and a deposit upgrade, which is an amount equivalent to three months’ billing. In Chas E Ramson’s case, this could total $2.4 million, calculated at the pre-renewables rates.

“We believe in trimming costs rather than raising prices,” said Ramson of the decision to not sell the excess energy. “That was also part of our initiative; we must remain competitive.”

Credit: RACQUEL PORTER, Jamaica Observer

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