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Sangster airport operator inks $1b solar deal with energy company IEC

MBJ Airports Limited, which manages the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, says it has contracted renewable energy firm Innovative Energy Company, IEC, to install a 5.7 megawatt solar power plant along with at least 4.0MW of storage, costing $1 billion.

It is the latest sustainability project aimed at curbing Sangster International Airport’s carbon emissions, according to MBJ Airports CEO Shane Munroe.

“In fact, this project will see the Sangster International Airport becoming substantially energy-independent, making it among the airports with the lowest carbon footprint in this hemisphere,” Munroe said in a statement.

IEC says it plans to do the installation as a joint venture project with Wigton Windfarms Limited. The two companies have partnered on other renewable-energy projects in the past. Their relationship was disclosed in market filings by Wigton last April.

At Sangster, the new plant will be the third phase of the airport’s expansive renewable-energy installations in recent years. The equipment will be supplied by technology provider Huawei, inclusive of inverters and a battery energy storage system referred to as BESS.

The solar panel installation at the airport will also involve some aspects of the facility floating over water as the airport lies next to the sea.

“Another unique component of the project will be floating photovoltaic solar energy, a technological solution to expand the growth of renewable energy that floats on a body of water,” said Nigel Davy, IEC’s executive chairman.

Floating solar is not new to Jamaica, however. A few years ago, the National Water Commission installed a floating system at its dam in Kingston, using a different supplier.

Solar technology has long been a source of energy saving for corporate Jamaica. The size of the solar plants generally sit in what is called the ‘Goldilocks zone’, that is, under 10MW of capacity. The systems are substantially larger than those utilised by households but several times smaller than those installed by heavy industrial or independent power providers.

“The implementation of solar energy not only improves the world’s carbon emissions, but presents a huge opportunity for job creation and investment,” Davy said. “At peak, we will employ over 50 construction workers, and over time, three engineers will be added to our team for technical support, for this and our other projects.”

IEC will begin work on the project this month and projects completion within 300 days or approximately 10 months from the start date.

As part of the contract, IEC, as a strategic partner of Huawei, will provide warranty support for all equipment as well as monitoring and maintenance support for 10 years.

Munroe says the project “will significantly reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of the Sangster International Airport, which is among MBJ Airports Limited’s ESG goals”.

Those pronouncements are important for companies in an era when the world is aiming for ‘net zero’ carbon emissions to slow down climate change, and capital markets and donors tend to reward sustainable businesses with access to funds and better financing terms.

As part of the climate-change initiative, Jamaica is reconfiguring its own energy mix to hit a 50 per cent renewable target, which was recently revised upwards from 30 per cent, by year 2037. Projects such as the one at Sangster International will help towards that goal.

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