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NICL to replicate Bengal solar project

Published:Wednesday | December 1, 2021 | 12:06 AMLeon Jackson/Gleaner Writer


Following the successful completion of a National Irrigation Commission Limited (NICL) pilot solar project at Bengal, Trelawny, the commission is so encouraged that it now plans to install four other such facilities across the country.

“We have spent a total of $65 million to install systems at Ebony Park in St Elizabeth; Operation Centre in St Catherine; Dorothy District Office in St Catherine; and Hounslow District Office in St Elizabeth,” said Wayne Barrett, NICL director of commercial operations.

According to Barrett, the decision to expand the project was primarily driven by the scope for the use of technology and the capacity for cost-saving.

“Water production and distribution is part of our mandate. It is an energy-intensive process accounting for 35 per cent of the NICL’s total cost,” said Barrett. “The incorporation of the new technology was aimed at improving its irrigation infrastructure and reducing operational cost through the use of solar power to self-generate power.”

According to Barrett, the NICL has benefited from the project in a reduction of operating costs, which fits perfectly into the mandate to reduce costs where possible.

“There is a reduced dependency on the national grid. This modernised infrastructure has also reduced the amount of subsidy needed from the Government,” said Barrett.

One major benefit to the persons in proximity to the Bengal irrigation plant is the expanded reach it has created, especially for the farmers.

“At Bengal, we have commissioned a ramp at the pump station. The ramp will provide much-needed irrigation water to farmers outside of the NICL’s irrigation areas to facilitate success in their agricultural endeavours,” said Barrett. “Farmers will be able to purchase and collect water from the newly commissioned pump.”

The improved availability of water to farmers is welcomed by Nigel Myrie, a representative of the All Island Cane Farmers Association. The association is responsible for the leasing of former sugar cane lands, which the Sugar Company of Jamaica has earmarked for farming.

“This could not come at a better time,” said Myrie. “With water now available, farmers can now diversify the kinds of crops they cultivate.”