On August 11, a U.S. company, BMR Energy LLC inaugurated Jamaica’s largest wind farm in Potsdam, St. Elizabeth, valued at US$89.9 million. Now, we learn that Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group is in the process of acquiring Blue Mountain Renewables (BMR) Jamaica Wind Limited, and there he was at the inauguration. It’s the first private sector wind farm project in the Caribbean.
Branson’s comments at the event are to be noted…
“I decided recently that we needed to get one get one or two core (clean energy) companies under our belt so that we can actually get out there and speed up this revolution…
“We were delighted to acquire BMR and we will be out there trying to hustle and bustle governments all over the Caribbean and other countries to hurry up towards carbon neutrality by 2050. Personally, I don’t need to make money out of it, if it makes a bit of money, fine, if it doesn’t, fine. I just want to get the sun out there, get the solar out there, get…powered by sun, wind, sea… get a green energy revolution and bring the cost of energy down for everybody. Get rid of the dangers of coal and oil and the dirty (energy sources) that we are using today.”
Sir Richard sounds a touch impatient with the Caribbean’s (and perhaps especially, Jamaica’s) tentative steps towards cleaner energy. In February 2014, the billionaire launched his Ten Island Renewable Challenge – an offshot of the Carbon War Room project he co-founded. You can read more about the Caribbean challenge here.
How does this sync with the Chinese plan to build a 1000 MW coal-fired power plant in the same parish? Well, please do ask Energy Minister Dr. Andrew Wheatley, who spoke about Jamaica’s “sustainable future” at the inauguration.
Here is a joint press release from the U.S. Embassy and Canadian High Commission in Jamaica, whose governments provided funding for this history-making investment along with the International Finance Corporation (IFC). By the way, it’s also the single largest investment in St. Elizabeth for over forty years.
August 11, 2016
Low cost wind energy being produced in Jamaica with support of US and Canadian financing
Kingston, Jamaica – August 11, 2016 – BMR Energy LLC inaugurated Jamaica’s largest wind farm today in St. Elizabeth. The U.S. and Canadian governments invested tens of millions of dollars (US) in the project. The electricity produced by this installation is expected to be among the lowest cost sources of power available on the JPS system.
The turbines will provide over 17,000 customers a year with clean, affordable, reliable, and domestically-produced power. The 11 Vestas wind turbines are expected to generate 120,000 MWh per year, roughly equivalent to 3 percent of Jamaica’s total energy demand. Power from the project will be sold to the Jamaica Public Service Company, under a 20-year power purchase agreement.
Speaking at the inauguration the US Ambassador Luis Moreno said, “The United States is proud that BMR Energy, an American company, is the first private investor from any country to build, own, and operate a renewable energy generation facility in Jamaica.” He then called on “the United States and Jamaica to work together to break Jamaica’s dependence on expensive, high-carbon, and imported fossil fuels.”
Sylvain Fabi, High Commissioner of Canada, noted that “this is a great example of how partnerships can result in savings – not only in costs to consumers – but also saving the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” The wind farm is expected to reduce greenhouse gases by about 66,000 tons CO2 equivalent per year, roughly equivalent to taking 13,000 cars off the road.
BMR Energy LLC won the project as part of the Office of Utilities Regulation’s (OUR) open bidding process for renewable energy in 2013. To finance the $90 million project, BMR invested over $25 million in equity and secured a US$62.7 million financing package: a US$42.7 million loan from the U.S. government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a US$10 million loan from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and a US$10 million loan from the IFC-Canada Climate Change Program.
The project, the first private sector wind farm project in the Caribbean, is an example of how the public and private sector can work together to combat global climate change while providing innovative solutions to the region’s development challenges.