Aerial view of the installed solar panels atop the Willowdene Group of Schools roof in Spanish  Town, St. Catherine, Jamaica, which becomes the first Adventist school primarily solar energy-efficient throughout country. [Photo: Central Jamaica Conference]

February 15, 2024 | St. Catherine, Jamaica, | Kimarley Walker Medley, Dyhann Buddoo-Fletcher and IAD News Staff

The Willowdene Group of School (WGS) is Jamaica’s first primarily solar energy-efficient Seventh-day Adventist school. The 11.5M Jamaican dollar [US $73,000] solar energy solution gift was officially handed over to the school from the WGS Alumni Association on Feb. 2, 2024.

“We are excited to provide a sustainable energy solution that will contribute to Willowdene’s growth and benefit both current and future students,” said Donmayne Gyles, WGS Alumni Association president. “The partnership between the WGS Alumni Association and the Central Jamaica exemplifies the spirit of collaboration, vision, and innovation.”

Gyles also thanked Cecil Foster, managing director of FosRich Group of Companies, and his team for partnering with them in the venture. “Without FosRich, this project would not be the success it has turned out to be.”

Donmayne Gyles, president of the Willowdene Group of Schools (WGS) Alumni Association speaks at the Handing Over Ceremony of solar energy solution to the school on Feb. 2, 2024. [Photo: Garry Witter]

The WGS Alumni President explained that implementing a solar system will bring numerous benefits to the community. As it embraces sustainability by harnessing clean and renewable energy sources, it will reduce the school’s carbon footprint, and promote environmental consciousness among students and staff, he said.

“The solar system will ensure a reliable power supply, allowing for an improved teaching and learning experience,” added Gyles.

The Solar PV Installation boasts of a grid-tie system comprising a total generating capacity of 64.36 kilowatts of DC power and a total inverter capacity of 55 kilowatts, which is expected to yield multiple benefits for the school, explained Jodie Ann Graham, sales manager at FosRich.

Jodie Ann Graham, sales manager at FosRich, explains the solar energy system handed over the school. [Photo: Garry Witter]

Additionally, “the average consumption for the Willowdene Group of Schools was approximately 6073kWh; with the solar PV system installed, the units will cover 75-85% of the full load,” she said.

Graham expressed that the system has a Return on Investment (ROI) of three years and a warranty package on the panels of 12 years; the inverter is for five years, and other equipment is for two to three years.

Principal Peter Williams said the cost savings will significantly benefit the WGS’s approximately 700 student population plus staff.

Students from the WIllowdene Group of Schools smile during the Feb. 2, 2024, ceremony. [Photo: Garry Witter]

“Our electricity bill alone for the past few months has climbed to over 800,000.00 Jamaican dollars monthly [or US $5,098]. Therefore, the cost savings generated by the transition to solar energy will free up resources that can be allocated to other areas, enhancing the overall educational experience for students,” Williams explained.

Graham also stated that the solar system is grid-tied and synchronizes with the JPS (Jamaica Public Service) grid. This type of system allows for an automatic supply changeover to JPS, which acts as a backup supply when there is a low solar supply (overcast day) than the school’s energy demand, she explained.  In addition, during the holiday seasons, when school is closed, the excess production from the solar system can be sold to JPS under a standard offer contract net billing system arrangement between the Willowdene Group of Schools and JPS.

The Willowdene Group of Schools Principal Peter Williams, thanks the alumni association for the solar energy solution gift during the ceremony on Feb. 2, 2024. [Photo: Garry Witter]

Adding his praise for the solar energy efficient gift, Chairman of the School Board, Pastor Nevail Barrett, said, “This gesture not only exemplifies WGS Alumni enduring commitment to the school but also empowers us to embrace environmentally responsible practices that align with our educational mission.”

“By spearheading this initiative,” said Pastor Everett Brown, president of the Jamaican Union, in his main address, “Willowdene Alumni Association has not only demonstrated its altruism but has also set an inspiring example for others to follow. This gift is a testament to the power of collective action in investing in education, and I pledge my continued commitment and support from the Jamaica Union Conference.”

Officials stand together with the special poster during the Willowdene Group of Schools Handover Ceremony of the solar energy solution gift, Feb. 2, 2024. [Photo: Garry Witter]

The initiative is part of what the Seventh-day Adventist Church is projecting to do towards being more sustainable, church leaders said.

“We are in the discussion phase of ensuring that all our schools trend toward energy cost saving, which has been a concern to us for some time” said Pastor Michael Henry, education director of the Jamaica Union. “We commend the Willowdene Group of Schools for having led the way and very soon, all other institutions will adopt this cost-saving technology,”

Jaden Lewis, president  of the United Student Association at the Willowdene Group of Schools, thanks the WGS Alumni Association for the tangible gift during the handing Over Ceremony on Feb. 2, 2024. [Photo: Garry Witter]

Inspired by the gift, grade 11 student Jaden Lewis, president of Willowdene High School United Students Association, expressed her deepest thanks on behalf of the student body.

“In the face of global challenges, it is reassuring to witness our alumni taking proactive steps to impact our school and the environment positively. The installation of the solar panels provides us with a sustainable energy source and sets a powerful example for us all,” Lewis said.

The Willowdene Group of Schools Alumni Association poses with the poster board representing the installed Solar Energy Solution donated to their alma mater after the handing over ceremony on school grounds, Feb. 2, 2024. [Photo: Garry Witter]

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica owns and operates 27 primary and secondary schools, overseeing over 4,500 students annually. Numbered among the schools in the Jamaica Union is the Willowdene Group of Schools, which lies in the jurisdiction of the Central Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. They are accredited by the Ministry of Education in Jamaica and the accrediting body of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The institution stands as a group of schools with three divisions: the early childhood, preparatory school, and high school.

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