There is a lot of talk regarding the plans to introduce a US$616-million power plant which is said to be a massive 360-megawatt unit that would be powered by liquefied natural gas.
This unit alone "will replace over 80 per cent of our base-loaded plants and more than 60 per cent of the peak demand," said Val Fagan of the South Jamaica Power Company.
If this is, in fact, the case, here is a golden opportunity that should not be missed. Approximately 60 years ago, I believe Jamaica changed over from 40 hertz to 50 hertz. Electrical devices that have motors and are sourced from the United States of America or Mexico, therefore, operate inefficiently as the frequency in these countries is 60 hertz. Once imported into Jamaica and put into operation, the motors run hot and slow and consume extra electricity/kilowatt-hours.
As consumers, we pay for this inefficiency with higher bills from the Jamaica Public Service (JPS). If the change was made to 60 hertz, the electricity consumed by the entire island would be reduced immediately, as less power would have to be produced.
Benefits for jps, others
The JPS would also benefit, as 60Hz equipment is easier to source and spare parts would be less of a problem. The manufacturers would also benefit, as a considerable amount of electrical equipment in this country is, in fact, 60Hz-operated - mills, elevators, compressors and other large machinery. This is a win-win situation, as most consumers would immediately consume less electricity, resulting in lower bills from the JPS.
How many people have tried to claim damage done to their equipment, only to be told by JPS that as it is a 60Hz/cycle unit, and as it is being operated on the wrong frequency, the utility cannot be liable for any damage?
There would still be a considerable amount of generation from 50Hz/cycle units, and the question would be asked, how can that be dealt with? Can we have two separate frequencies operating in Jamaica? We actually can, but it would be best to utilise 'frequency changers' to convert the output to 60Hz/cycles.
This is not a far-fetched idea, as the Mechanicville Hydroelectric Plant in New York still produces power at 40Hz and supplies power to the local grid at 60Hz with these devices.
In Mexico, areas operating on 50Hz were converted as recently as the 1970s to 60Hz, so what is being suggested can work. What is needed is commitment so that generations to come will benefit from our decisions.
We, as residential consumers, contribute 63 per cent of the revenue that JPS enjoys; the commercial entities contribute another 34 per cent; and 'others', the remaining three per cent. This means that the residential consumers in Jamaica should petition the JPS, the Office of Utilities Regulation, and the Government of Jamaica as we stand the most to gain from a change from 50 hertz to 60 hertz!
Gordon Lawrence, Contributor
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