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  • The National Irrigation Commission (NIC) has commissioned into service a solar-powered system at the Bengal pump station in Rio Bueno, Trelawny, which will reduce annual energy cost at the facility by $3 million.
  • The station, which serves the Braco irrigation district, is the first pump facility operated by the NIC to be retrofitted with a large-scale solar-energy photovoltaic system valued at $37.77 million.
  • Included in the retrofit was the installation of a 90-kilowatt grid-tied solar photovoltaic system to self-generate 75 per cent of the energy requirement of the pump station.

The National Irrigation Commission (NIC) has commissioned into service a solar-powered system at the Bengal pump station in Rio Bueno, Trelawny, which will reduce annual energy cost at the facility by $3 million.

The station, which serves the Braco irrigation district, is the first pump facility operated by the NIC to be retrofitted with a large-scale solar-energy photovoltaic system valued at $37.77 million.

Included in the retrofit was the installation of a 90-kilowatt grid-tied solar photovoltaic system to self-generate 75 per cent of the energy requirement of the pump station.

Speaking at the ceremony, held on Thursday (January 23), Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Audley Shaw, said that with this new system, farmers in the area will receive improved water supply.

He noted that the use of this renewable energy facility will help to reduce the energy cost to the Government as well as lessen the NIC’s footprint by 110 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions annually.

The Minister said that energy use in agriculture and irrigation is high, with electricity costs accounting for 35 per cent of the NIC’s annual budget, owing to the agency’s reliance on non-renewable energy.

In that regard, Mr. Shaw pointed out that the Government is moving to use renewable energy to strengthen the NIC’s capacity to better serve farmers and spur growth in the agricultural sector.

“The application of renewable energy throughout the sector is part of the deliberate strategy being employed by the Government to boost production and productivity. We want to modernise the sector and outfit it with requirements to increase production and productivity efficiency,” he said.

For his part, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. J.C. Hutchinson, said the retrofitted Bengal pump station will help to boost productivity in the sector and enable rural development.

“With this commissioning of the improved facility, we will see even more bountiful supplies of vegetables being produced, not only for the hotel industry but also for the domestic and export markets,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the NIC, Senator Aubyn Hill, said the Commission is committed to achieving a three per cent energy cost avoidance by using renewable energy sources, by the end of the year

“We want to use less and less of that imported fossil fuel that we use foreign exchange to pay for, and use fuel that God gave us from the sun, by putting in renewable energy,” he argued.

Senator Hill said it is projected that the Commission will be self-generating approximately 16 per cent or more of its energy requirement using renewable energy technologies by 2022.

The NIC intends to replicate the project at five of its offices and pump stations across the island by March 2020.

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