Jamaica and the Source Farm

My daughter and I visited The Source Farm in Jamaica from November 20 - November 28.

The most important findings I made in Jamaica is:

  1. ISEC is inseparable from electrification. We need to incorporate small battery packs, USB charging ports and light systems. People to talk to are Alexis (Solar Boxes) and RVB (Kuyere! Malawi). Many Jamaican farmers are using the small solar systems that Alexis introduced: using the “solar box”. These solar systems are not just for rural off grid, because the electricity is very expensive in Jamaica (partly because it is generated with petroleum, and partly because of considerable electricity theft: “bridging the electricity”) - $0.40/kWh… although Luke claims it’s more than $0.60 / kWh.
  2. In Jamaica, the major bottle neck is sourcing (especially) solar panels. I don’t even know if you can buy a solar panel in Jamaica. Alexis’s shipment of solar panels has been stuck in Panama for ~ 3 months.

Jamaica is a lush island, but imports most of its food (mostly) from the USA. A collapse of shipping would mean starvation. The Source Farm is dedicated to building capacity to grow and process food locally. Processing is expensive because of energy costs (and inability to get machinery)… so DDS (direct drive solar… or “Daylight Drive”) could be very important. GWG is an experimental farm/food processing facility that has 6 panels total providing 90 volts, 16 amps, ~1500 Watts. With this power, they can shred breadfruit, then dry it in the solar oven, then grind it to a fine flour.
On Tuesday, Nov. 23, we had a meeting with several farmers and government people at GWG to show off the food processing ability. The idea is to have it open as a user facility.

I took the opportunity to show off Alexis’s Red Roxie with a 280 W panel.

However, the resistance of the Red Roxie is a little too high for the solar panel we were using, so the power was only about 150 W… but still enough to cook pumpkin stew for everyone to enjoy with the rest of the food provided.

It’s OK that the resistance is too high, as it performs better under lower sun intensities.
I gave a talk at University of West Indies on Thursday, Thanksgiving. There were 6-8 people in the room with us, and another 14 on Zoom. The response was enthusiastic. The meeting lasted well over an hour and a half with all the questions. I stressed a few things:

  • Direct Drive is the cheapest way to use electricity
  • If you need battery storage, you should still shift as much load as you can to daylight drive.
  • Thermal loads can be shifted to daylight drive
  • Our global learning community is probably the most compelling thing we are doing. This GLC should be expanded to accommodate solar electric home systems.
    After returning from GWG, I installed the Red Roxie with the 280 W solar panel. We are relying on the Source Farm to cut the trees that partially shade the solar panel at times during the day. Nadine does a lot of the cooking at the Source Farm. She doesn’t use the ISEC because it is hard to pick up the top and then you don’t know where to put it. So, I put a pulley system in place to make it easier to lift. Nadine says she’ll start using it now.

    They also have a Bucket Perl (insulated with perlite). I added thermostatic control. In particular, a family needs to maintain 50 C in order to infuse honey with spices.


Hi Pete,
this is good news , to hear that ISEC is integrated to a whole solar home system, with battery and light .
This may also be experienced in Cameroon because the energy shortage is real here , in both rural and urban areas.

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Good news for our ISEC community.
-Holistic solution increases uptake
-optimizes the use of energy produced
-lows down the marginal cost of battery because its multi applications.
Now, how can we manage the efficiency of each element?
I have made an introduction posted in the forum for SG past meeting.
Thank you Pete for your post.

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