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WAPA Achieves A "Big Landmark," WAPA Board Approves Solar Energy for the Virgin Islands

(Thursday, May 24, 2012)

The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority

NEWS RELEASE

Contact:  Cassandra Dunn, Director of Corporate Communications

340-773-2250 extension 4085 or 340-690-5758

Thursday, May 24, 2012

WAPA ACHIEVES A “BIG LANDMARK”

BOARD APPROVES SOLAR ENERGY GENERATION FOR THE VIRGIN ISLANDS

The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority Governing Board met today and enthusiastically authorized the utility’s executive director to finalize negotiations and execute power purchase and interconnection agreements with Toshiba International Corporation, Lanco Virgin Islands I, LLC, a subsidiary of Lanco Solar International, and Sun Edison LLC for the integration of a total of 18 MW (megawatts) of solar energy into WAPA’s electrical grid.  Board Chair Juanita R. Young called it a “big landmark” in attaining the DeJongh administration’s mandate to reduce the territory’s use of fossil fuel 60% before the year 2025.  Executive Director Hugo V. Hodge, Jr. said the 18 MW of solar which will likely be distributed relatively evenly between the St. Thomas/ St. John district and the St. Croix district represents approximately 14 to 15% of the territory’s peak load demand and will definitely help to reduce customer rates once fully installed.

Toshiba, Lanco Virgin Islands, and Sun Edison, LLC were three of the six bidders who were shortlisted for negotiations after a request for proposal (RFP) was issued by the Authority last year for the procurement of a minimum of 10 MW of electrical energy and other products generated from commercially proven photovoltaic solar generation facilities.  Hodge said that the three companies represented the best options offered in response to the RFP in order for WAPA to strengthen and diversify its generation portfolio, and to respond to the Board’s directive  to bring renewables onto the grid as an asset in the fight against volatile fuel oil prices.  Hodge said that the 18 MW of solar energy is a very aggressive step towards lowering customer rates and it is doubtful that anywhere else in the region has yet reached this milestone.

Member Karl Knight who also serves as Director of the Virgin Islands Energy Office said he was very pleased with the outcome of the RFP as the photovoltaic installation will represent a “big chunk” towards meeting the 60% reduction by 2025 mandate.  Hodge  agreed saying “this is  a good day for the Virgin Islands and an even better day for the Water and Power Authority” adding that  negotiations will likely be finalized  in 7-10 days with a public signing of the contracts within the next several weeks at which time the final costs will be announced.  The first solar array will be completed by the first quarter of 2013 and the total project completed by the end of next year. Hodge and the Board members gave kudos to Chief Operating Officer Gregory Rhymer who headed the evaluation team of WAPA’s technical personnel and outside consultants for this major accomplishment.

Hodge and Young also recognized Dr. Adam Warren and Dan Olis of the National Renewable Laboratory which partnered with WAPA through the EDIN-USVI initiative to offer expertise and technical assistance that would have otherwise been extremely costly. In response to public concern, Hodge assured members of the Board that WAPA will still have sufficient capacity on the grid to maintain its net metering program for customers at the 15% penetration for those who want to install their own alternative energy systems and put their excess generation back into the grid.

Several other major milestones in the development of the utility’s infrastructure were also approved today including what was referred to as “big steps” for increasing transmission reliability with more robust circuitry on St. Croix.  Hodge reported that the very first completely underground transmission project in WAPA’s history is in progress. The transmission line which will allow for the interconnection of  St. Croix’s only substation in Richmond, to the planned Midland substation at 69kV will decrease line loss, enhance service to the island’s west end and reduce the time for service recovery after natural events such as hurricanes. The newly upgraded Richmond substation is a state of the art facility that has already brought greater reliability to St. Croix’s system.  To facilitate this project the board took the following action:

            Approved a contact with Fortress Electric to install test and commission 69kV terminations on the underground transmission circuit for a total price of $234.430, and

            Approved the purchase of 69kV TYCO heat shrink termination splice kits and cable saddles from Peco International at a total price of $215,424.

            The Board also took action on other capital improvement projects as follows:

  • Authorized funds in the amount of $341,900 for Bryan’s Electrical Contracting Corporation to install and construct the underground primary and secondary distribution system in the St. Thomas Market Square area to improve the reliability of electric power in the Main Street area and to allow for the potential of tying Feeders 9A, 10A and a new underground circuit to the Main Street area.     
  • Approved a contract with Zenon Construction Corporation not to exceed $259,547 to rehabilitate the drainage swale around the 10 million gallon Richmond  water storage tank.  The project funds were made available through the EPA’s Drinking Water Infrastructure Safety Act.
  • Approved a 30-day extension of the existing contract with Asplundh Tree Expert Company for supervision, materials, labor, supplies, tools,  and equipment to perform forestry services. The extension will bring Asplundh’s contract in line with the Authority’s fiscal year contract timelines.
  • Approved payments to the Public Services Commission for docket specific assessments totaling $202,000.

            In the Executive Director’s report Hodge reported that the newly leased temporary generator  Unit #25,   has been installed, is being tested and will be on line by early next week bringing relief to the intermittent outages that have been occurring on St. Thomas. Within the next 18 months while the unit is operating, all other generator turbines in the Harley plant will be serviced.  Related to this, the Board  also approved a resolution to open a separate bank account with Banco Popular in which funds related to the monies included in the LEAC fuel surcharge for the leasing of the generator will be deposited.  According to Acting Chief Financial Officer Maurice Sebastien, this will allow for transparency and optimum accounting for expenses related to the  lease with GE Corporation.

            Hodge also reported that WAPA is very close to completing the process to secure a loan from the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) for an Automatic Meter Infrastructure (AMI) project which will help to modernize how customers can track their usage and control their individual utility costs through smart grid technology.  This will help to bring the Virgin Islands to the technological forefront of the industry, Hodge said.

            In the monthly WAPA Working for You segment during which employees explain their job responsibilities to the Board and have an opportunity to observe how the Board  conducts business, Patricia Blake Simmonds, Purchasing Manager, explained the work of her department which has a staff of five. Simmonds spoke of the utility’s procurement processes and the safeguards that are in place to ensure that entities doing business with WAPA are duly certified and have been authorized within the proper guidelines.

            Attending today’s meeting were Chairwoman Young, Assistant Chair Atty. Gerald Groner, Energy Director Knight, Board Secretary and Finance Committee Chair Noel Loftus, and  Donald Francois.  Excused were Commissioners Alicia Barnes and Wayne Biggs, and members Brenda Benjamin and Cheryl Boynes Jackson.

 

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