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]

Inter-America

Adventist School in Jamaica Becomes First Educational Institution to Go Solar

Willowdene Group of Schools, in partnership with FosRich Group of Companies, demonstrates financial responsibility and commitment to environmental conscientiousness

Jamaica | Kimarley Walker Medley, Dyhann Buddoo-Fletcher, and IAD News Staff

The Willowdene Group of Schools (WGS) is Jamaica’s first primarily solar-energy-efficient Seventh-day Adventist educational institution. The J$11.5 million (approx. US$73,400) solar energy solution gift was officially handed over to the school from the WGS Alumni Association on February 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 [Conference] 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.”

Gyles 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 [energy] 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 (direct current) 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.

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,” Graham said.

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

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

“Our electricity bill alone for the past few months has climbed to over J$800,000 monthly [approx. US$5,100]. 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 lower solar supply (due to an 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 net-billing-system contract between WGS and JPS.

Adding his praise for the solar-energy-efficient gift, Pastor Nevail Barrett, chairperson of the School Board, said, “This gesture not only exemplifies WGS Alumni’s 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.”

The initiative is part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s projected activities 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 for 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.”

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 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. 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: early childhood, preparatory, and high school.

The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division website.

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