School Becomes First Adventist Educational Institution in Jamaica to Go Solar

Church leaders hope this move will soon be replicated across the nation.

Kimarley Walker Medley, Dyhann Buddoo-Fletcher, and Inter-American Division News Staff
School Becomes First Adventist Educational Institution in Jamaica to Go Solar
Aerial view of the installed solar panels atop the Willowdene Group of Schools roof in Spanish Town, St. Catherine, Jamaica. [Photo: Central Jamaica Conference]

The Willowdene Group of Schools (WGS) is Jamaica’s first primarily solar energy–efficient Seventh-day Adventist school. The JA$11.5 million (US $73,500) solar energy solution gift was officially handed over to the school by the WGS Alumni Association on February 2.

“We are excited to provide a sustainable energy solution that will contribute to Willowdene’s growth and benefit both current and future students,” Donmayne Gyles, WGS Alumni Association president, said. “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.”

The WGS Alumni Association 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, the school will reduce its 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,” Gyles added.

The Solar PV Installation boasts 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, Jodie Ann Graham, sales manager at FosRich, said.

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

Graham added 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.

WSG principal Peter Williams said the cost savings will significantly benefit the school’s approximately 700 student population plus staff.

“Our electricity bill alone for the past few months has climbed to over eight hundred thousand Jamaican dollars monthly [about 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 energy system synchronizes with the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) 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 (such as on an overcast day) than the school’s energy demand, she explained. In addition, during the holiday seasons, when the school is closed, the excess production from the solar system can be sold to JPS under a standard offer contract with a net billing arrangement between the Willowdene Group of Schools and JPS.

Adding his praise for the solar energy system gift, school board chair Nevail Barrett 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.”

Jamaica Union Conference president Everett Brown agreed. “By spearheading this initiative, 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 what the Seventh-day Adventist Church is projecting to do toward 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,” Michael Henry, education director of the Jamaica Union, said. “We commend the Willowdene Group of Schools for having led the way, and [hope that] 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 Student Association, expressed her deep 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 more than 4,500 students. The schools are accredited by the Ministry of Education in Jamaica and the accrediting body of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Numbered among the schools is the Willowdene Group of Schools, which lies in the jurisdiction of the Central Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The institution stands as a group of schools with three divisions: early childhood, preparatory school, and high school.

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

Kimarley Walker Medley, Dyhann Buddoo-Fletcher, and Inter-American Division News Staff