The current buzz word in Jamaica at the moment is saving on one’s monthly energy bill. However, despite consumers best effort at instituting conservation efforts in their homes, the monthly electric utility bill continue to increase. Educational facilities are in the same boat as the average householders, with most if not all secondary schools on the island facing monthly energy bills close to $1M. This energy cost is not sustainable and as such schools are looking for alternatives to high monthly energy bills. Some schools’ wish is to go completely “off-grid” using alternative energy sources such as wind and solar to replace the energy services currently being supplied by the Jamaica Public Service Company. While going “off-grid” would replace the monthly energy bill, the upfront cost is highly prohibitive and beyond the capacity of most schools in the public system to even consider. Hence, with few options opened to these school administrators they continue to suffer in silence and struggle every month to keep their doors open and school operating.
Some schools have undertaken energy audit but an audit does not provide the right solution to the problems these schools are facing. For example an audit would not explain why a breaker repeatedly trip and the possible reasons why the breaker is tripping. The audit would examine the existing consumption and suggest options for reducing this consumption, but the audit does not indicate the health of the electrical distribution system. Therefore, it makes no sense whatsoever to overlay alternative energy solutions on a poorly designed or evolved electrical distribution system.
These school administrators if they want to reduce their monthly energy cost must take in consideration the health of their electrical distribution system. Hiring a licensed electrician is not the answer either as what is needed is engineering evaluation executed by a registered electrical engineer to determine the health of the electrical distribution system. The electrical evaluation would cover the following areas:
- Determine the facility load profile.
- Determine if the current distribution system can support the existing load profile.
- Determine if the electrical distribution system can be rationalised and to determine the savings to be gained.
- Determine how the use of the facility affects the load profile, and if modification of use can lead to savings in energy cost,
This engineering evaluation would provide a road map on how school administrators can reduce their school plant load over a given period. If the road map calls for the implementation of alternative energy solutions, then the savings would be significantly higher with this engineering evaluation versus just executing an energy audit.
The current situation most school administrators find themselves can be solved with the application of engineered solutions, then they would be on their way to solving their problem of high monthly energy costs.
Courtney Orville Currie P.E. is an electrical engineer and the CEO of LIMCO Engineering Inc. Courtney is a Registered Engineer in Jamaica and the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago and holds engineering license for the State of Florida.