Yallahs: A Tale of Twin Ponds

July 27, 2022

As a proud, lifelong resident of the island nation of Jamaica, I have first-hand experience with the high energy costs that Jamaican residents are regularly subjected to. Add to that, a strong desire to keep the island’s natural ecosystem preserved and shift Jamaica’s source of electrical energy from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The transition from fossil fuels to renewables is the most direct approach to combating climate change and slowing down its effects, such as sea level rise and more intense tropical cyclones. Yallahs, a town located on the southeastern coast of Jamaica in the parish of St Thomas, is the site of a recent Caban deployment and is a perfect example of how renewable energy can be applied to make a difference.

Yallahs is especially interesting because it is rich in culture and historical subtext. The region is made up of a collaboration of districts, communities and villages surrounding the Yallahs River Basin. The town was one of the main towns in which the Taínos once lived. The Tainos are believed to be an indigenous people of the Caribbean. At the time of European contact in the late 15th century, they were the principal inhabitants of most of what is now Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, The Bahamas, and the northern Lesser Antilles. Well known for the natural beauty and diversity of the surrounding ecosystem, the geographic region is home to Easington, which houses one of the most interesting geological formations in this part of the island – a sheer cliff that rises over one thousand feet high. Judgment Cliff, as it is called, is the most visible reminder of the 1692 earthquake that destroyed Port Royal.

At night, the town changes from a congested urban center to a mellow yet lively scene of streets lined with pan-chicken stalls and small pubs with patrons and reggae music.

Yallahs Salt Pond, St. Thomas

The most interesting features of Yallahs are the twin salt ponds located just outside the town center, which were once a key source of salt for the region. Several theories exist, however one of the most respected opinions is that during the earthquake of 1692 the land below what are now the ponds sank, leaving pockets of seawater almost completely enclosed by land. Due to evaporation, the water in the pond is extremely saline, at times recorded as being 15 times saltier than the seawater!

A number of interesting and amusing stories abound as to the origin of the twin salt ponds in Yallahs. Some say the ponds were once the family property under the control of two brothers, and were created after a dispute between the two brothers, in love with the same woman.

Today, the small town, home to nearly 10,000 Jamaicans, is a thriving community which has a significant need for reliable voice and data services that doesn’t break the bank. As an island nation, Jamaicans are frequently subjected to paying some of the highest utility and power rates in the Western part of the world. For a region that experiences idyllic and tropical weather year round, harnessing the power and economic efficiency of solar to generate power at a small fraction of the cost just makes sense. The mobile network operator, Flow, providing local voice and data services to the town, decided to transition the source of power away from the grid and utilize Caban’s best-in-class lithium-ion energy management system.

For Caban’s contribution to the project, the self generating energy system was commissioned in December of 2021 and categorized as a site retrofit to replace the existing diesel generator and lead-acid batteries. The solution applied was an Enduro Platform with solar energy generation. Caban successfully migrated the site for the customer, Flow, in March 2022. My role in the project is to assess the production, layout and shading analysis of the site for further optimization.

The result, thus far, has been a reduction in grid dependence, with a monthly solar energy generation of approximately 800 kWh per month, which is the result of 55 diesel gallons avoided per month or 1,372 miles driven by an average passenger vehicle per month. Higher energy pricing soaring through the Caribbean, it’s evident that the savings are significant. Residents have also reported less air pollution, less noise pollution and more reliable data services.

My paternal family is rooted in St. Thomas, I have a strong connection with the residents of the parish and have been involved with its development for many years. I love the history and stories surrounding Yallahs and feel especially fortunate to have worked on this project which has made an impact on the small town of 10,000.

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