A memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been signed between the Sugar Company of Jamaica Holdings Limited and BMR Energy LLC for the development of a solar project that will provide power to the irrigation system at the Monymusk Sugar Estate in Clarendon.

The signing took place at the offices of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries in New Kingston on November 7.

The signatories were President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), BMR Energy LLC, Bruce Levy; and Chairman, Board of Directors, SCJ Holdings Limited, Wentworth Charles.

In his address, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Karl Samuda, said implementation of the system will assist in providing a reliable flow of water to the crops as well as reduce the company’s energy cost.

“It is the first solar system that will facilitate irrigation in one of the areas where we have the most fertile soil but we lack consistency of water supply to ensure that the output is predictable,” he said.

“I understand that this irrigation will provide 50 per cent of our requirement for irrigation. It is hoped that once this succeeds, then it will be extended so that we will have 100 per cent to underwrite the high cost of electricity to keep our irrigation system running,” he said.

Mr. Holness pointed out that the aim is to increase the acreage under cultivation from approximately 3,000 hectares to about 7,500 hectares.

Mr. Samuda informed that the sugar industry employs 50,000 workers and impacts approximately 200,000 persons both directly and indirectly. “It (the sugar industry) is resilient against weather, it is resilient against praedial larceny, and we have a level of expertise and familiarity with the industry where we don’t have to import experts,” he said.

For his part, Mr. Levy said his company can offer SCJ several options to reduce their energy costs and improve the environment by the use of solar technology, and in some cases battery technology.

He said benefits of renewable energy include lowering the country’s oil bill as well as reducing the impact on the environment from burning fuel.

“We’re in Jamaica because it is a great place to do business. We have been very excited about the way Jamaica has embraced our proposals and our willingness to do business here. It’s filled with great natural resources, we’re using wind now in St. Elizabeth, but there is solar energy all over the island, and there is a great opportunity to make use of that,” he said.

He informed that his company has started undertaking some of the analysis that is being contemplated by the MOU.

BMR Energy, a Virgin Group investment, is a developer, owner and operator of clean energy projects in the Caribbean and Latin America.

In July 2016, BMR’s 36-megawatt wind farm in Jamaica began operation as the country’s largest private-sector renewable-energy project. The wind farm is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 66,000 tons each year and provide clean energy to 40,000 people in Jamaica.

The SCJ Holding Limited operates specifically to support job creation, improve foreign trade and increase productivity. Its mandate includes divestment of government-owned sugar estates, leasing sugar lands to investors, managing all the sugar lands owned by the Government, determining the capabilities of government-owned lands, and promoting investment of government lands under its management.