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JWN developing solar plant at Clarendon distillery

Rum maker J. Wray & Nephew Limited, JWN, is setting up a solar power plant at its New Yarmouth, Clarendon, distillery, a relatively small facility with a capacity of 750 kilowatts or 0.75 megawatt.

The project falls under the spirits company’s wider sustainability programmes in which it is investing millions of hard dollars, but the cost of the solar facility itself has not been disclosed.

Construction recently started after receiving planning approval in August and will take about a year to 18 months to be completed.

“That should be enough for a while because remember, we also have liquefied natural gas that we started in New Yarmouth a few years ago,” said JWN Managing Director Jean-Philippe ‘JP’ Beyer in an interview with the Financial Gleaner on Wednesday.

The increased power supply from the solar plant will allow the company on the back end to keep pace with the growing demand for its products.

Rum demand from both its white and premium-aged rums have grown by double digits since the onset of the pandemic.

“It translates to a situation where we do not have enough stock to sell … and hopefully, this will be resolved,” Beyer said.

JWN, which was acquired by Campari Group of Italy over a decade ago, still controls most of Jamaica’s rum market. Its brands include Wray & Nephew and Appleton Estate rums, but it also makes other products such as Magnum Tonic Wine, which sells more “in the UK than in Jamaica”, Beyer said.

Campari rum sales from its Jamaica division climbed to €159.1 million ($25 billion) last year, up 43 per cent. Beyer explained that the rise reflected mainly overseas drinkers. The Jamaica division includes sales from the Caribbean and sections of the Americas, he said.

The solar plant will support the New Yarmouth distillery and also the dunder treatment plant. That plant will receive dunder or cane trash from rum making, which is done at New Yarmouth and at Appleton Estate in St Elizabeth.

“The dunder treatment plant requires significantly more power than we can produce,” said Beyer.

The dunder plant is currently under construction.

“It will enable us not to fertigate the diluted dunder on the ground. That is why we are also in parallel building this power plant to feed this industrial equipment. It is quite massive because right now we cannot produce enough energy on site,” said Beyer.

JWN has said it takes 1.2MW of power to run the New Yarmouth distillery, but that the requirement will rise to about 2.2MW once the dunder plant is commissioned.

It is still unclear, however, as to whether the solar project will take the facility up to or beyond that capacity. While the amount of supply power will be 0.75MW, the company has not disclosed the capacity at the LNG plant, which was set up in 2018.

JWN chose to add renewable energy over installing more LNG capacity, saying it fits the sustainability goals of the company and its parent.

Campari Group, whose operations span more than 20 production sites globally, aims to reduce its carbon gas emissions across the globe by 20 per cent by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030. Additionally, 100 per cent of its European production sites will become 100 per cent renewable by 2025. That indicates the seriousness of the sustainability drive across the group, said Beyer.

In Jamaica, the investment in the dunder treatment plant and related projects will rise above US$50 million, Campari said in its sustainability report.

JWN once operated a 2.5MW bagasse plant at Appleton Estate that was set up in 2015. However that power plant is no longer operational as it and the wider factory was closed in 2020, the company said.

Last year, New Yarmouth was said to have achieved more efficient energy usage in the distillation processes following the installation of a new low-pressure steam boiler and new distillation columns.

“As a result of these interventions, the distillery has reduced its energy intensity by 18 per cent compared to 2021, making a significant contribution to the global energy reduction,” the Campari report indicated.

The World Bank, in a recent study, said the consumption of alcohol in Jamaica is about 11 litres per year, which is below the global average of 16 litres, and ranked the country at 140th globally. Zimbabwe topped the rankings with consumption of 63 litres a year. Kuwait drinks the least at one litre.