Wigton plans expansion into wider Caribbean

After a successful financial year, which saw the company’s net profits rise by 34 per cent, Wigton Windfarm Limited is now looking ahead to its next phase of expansion with plans to enter new projects in the wider Caribbean region.

Wigton’s net profit increased by 34% in the previous year.

Wigton generates approximately 6.16 per cent of the total contract capacity of all power producers in Jamaica through three phases in Rose Hill, Manchester.

The 62.7 megawatt (MW) complex has assisted Jamaica in reducing the country’s dependence on fossil fuels with a saving of US$54 million (Ja$8 billion) in oil imports or 800,000 barrels of oil.

After 19 years as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), Wigton was listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange in the largest initial public offering in Jamaica’s history.

“Once viability is established, the company will seek to engage in the ventures that bring maximum value to shareholders.”

– Wigton Windfarm’s Managing Director Earl Barrett

Now, the windfarm operators have become more focused on expanding the scope as phase 1, which comprises 23 of the 44 turbines, approaches their normal 20-year life span.

It would also be the expiration of the initial power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Jamaica Public Service (JPS), which can be extended to April 2030.

Under the Electricity Act 2015, independent power providers such as Wigton have to successfully win a request for proposal (RFP) from the Government’s procurement agency to construct new renewable energy facilities to generate new energy capacity to be sold to the single buyer JPS.

Wigton is looking to expand its footprint in the Caribbean after a successful year.

Wigton’s attempt to start phase 4 was unsuccessful as they lost the 34 MW bid to Eight Rivers Energy Company, which eventually set up Paradise Park Solar Farm in Westmoreland.

Apart from Blue Mountain Renewables that operates its own wind farm, Wigton has other competitors seeking to win RFPs for new investment operations such as French-based company Neoen, the parent company of Eight Rivers Energy Company.

Although these developments may seem daunting, Managing Director Earl Barrett remains confident about Wigton’s ability to navigate its path as it has over the last decade.

“Since the finalisation of the divestment, Wigton has been exploring several projects in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean region.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the pace of this process, before its onset there had been reasonably encouraging discussions and other initial activities which we are seeking to resume as soon as conditions permit,” Barrett said.

He added: “At this stage, markets that present an opportunity will be explored. Once viability is established, the company will seek to engage in the ventures that bring maximum value to shareholders.”

Dominican Republic and Guadeloupe currently have the most significant amount of installed capacity in the Caribbean region. The smaller South and Eastern Caribbean states have less than 120 MW of installed capacity.

With the region facing the highest costs of electricity in the world and most states signing the Paris Agreement, it is expected that more countries will move towards renewable energy to achieve lower energy costs and reduce greenhouse emissions.

Barrett confirmed that the company would be considering equity and alternative investment options and debt for sourcing capital in its expansion plans. COVID-19 hasn’t significantly impacted Wigton either. The company carries an inventory of spare parts and has been maintaining its operations with a skilled cadre of Jamaican engineers and technicians since 2010.

Apart from delays in the shipping of goods, the only indirect impact the company has faced is through the Jamaican dollar’s devaluation from the onset of COVID-19.

The company also managed to pay out a $27.8-million dividend payable for next month, which was the same amount paid out in its 2018 financial year.

–David Rose