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WAPA Board Approves Plans to Ensure Preparedness and Continued Growth

(Friday, August 31, 2012)


    The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority Governing Board held its monthly meeting Thursday on St. Croix and approved agenda items that enable the utility’s forward planning initiatives to continue. Among the items approved is the purchase of a spare Boiler Feed Water Pump for Unit #24 Heat Recovery Steam Generator from Sulzer Pumps at the cost of $269,364. This purchase will significantly lessen the amount of time the unit will be inoperable in the event the current Boiler Feed Water Pump fails. This will limit the inconvenience to the utility’s electric customers.

    Board Chair Atty. Gerald T. Groner commended the Authority’s management for thinking ahead. He said, “We run into problems with maintenance and parts because of our cash flow situation, so any efforts we can make to get critical spare parts here and ready, I applaud.” Executive Director Hugo V. Hodge Jr., in indicating that it is important to meet WAPA’s operational challenges as quickly as possible during emergencies, said it is prudent for the Authority to buy this spare part, particularly because it is a long lead item. In giving some background on this particular piece of equipment, Hodge said it is the same part that on St. Thomas forced the Authority to impose water rationing late last year much to the inconvenience of water customers. “Getting this spare part now will minimize any downtime in the event something does happen to such a critical item,” said Hodge. As funds permit, the Authority will continue to warehouse critical items in this manner.

The other approved projects include:
• An increase in cost for emergency repairs of St. Thomas boiler units #11 and #13 by $139,000, bringing the total to $214, 000, which represents additional maintenance, inspection and repairs by Foster Wheeler to ensure the availability of standby units and steam generation for water production. The extension of the project completion date from January 31, to May 30, 2012, for Arcadis to conduct compliance tests at the Richmond power plant, and extension of the project completion date from February 28, to June 30, 2012, for AMP Cherokee to supply and install Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems (CEMS) on St. Thomas combustion turbines #22 and #23. The approved extensions will allow for final payments to the contractors.

• A stack testing contract in the amount of $551,000 with Arcadis, for work to be completed at the Randolph Harley Power Plant. Once completed, the Authority will meet the required local and federal emissions requirements.
In his Executive Director’s Report, Hodge spoke about the dedication ceremony that was held at the Richmond Substation on Wednesday, where the Authority dedicated five projects that were all spearheaded by WAPA engineers. He also expressed his appreciation and commendations to all employees who were involved in seeing the projects through to fruition. Hodge then spoke about his recent trips to Hawaii and later Denver, Colorado. Hodge said he was honored to be invited by the Hawaiian Government to be a keynote speaker at the Asian-Pacific Renewable Clean Energy Forum. He said it is important for island nations to continue to discuss successes and failures in an effort to minimize failures and increase successes. “From what I could tell, it was well-received,” said Hodge, who presented on the utility’s progress in incorporating clean energy into its generation portfolio. “There were lots of questions and participants were impressed with the progress being made here in the territory; particularly with regards to solar energy.” In Colorado, Hodge participated in the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) invitation only training involving true analysis of island grids. “It was quite intense,” he said. “There was lots of dialogue about the actual challenges of connecting intermittent resources to island grids.” Hodge said NREL’s simulator, which can actually mimic wind and solar coming in, intermittently, with real data into the grid will be of great assistance to WAPA going forward. Expenses for both trips were paid by the host agencies.

    With regards to the Energy Services Business Unit for which the Authority received a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Hodge said the business plan is in progress and some interest has been expressed by some local entities to get involved. “Our plan is to have an Energy Service Business Unit here at the Authority where it’s a revolving fund, and we can go to small commercial businesses and some residents, giving them a mechanism in which to upgrade their facilities to be more efficient; all while having a fund to pay for it,” he said. A portion of the savings realized by customers will be used to replenish the fund, Hodge explained.

    Hodge also updated Board members about the 12 responses to the fuel invitation for bid issued earlier this month. Hodge says the community should rest assured that WAPA will have a fuel supplier after HOVENSA ends supply December 31, 2012. As for the solar projects approved for construction earlier this year, Hodge said initial kickoff meetings with the three companies selected—Toshiba, Lanco Virgin Islands and Sun Edison have taken place and just this week he received confirmation from Lanco of the site control for their project. He said the other two companies are in the process of getting that done as well. “On our end, we did receive PSC approval and the deadline to appeal that approval has already passed, so it is non-appealable at this point,” said Hodge. “This is a milestone that I was hoping we would attain.”

    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, Cecil Daniel, an 18-year veteran employee working as a Water Plant Operator Shift Leader explained his duties to the Board. His day includes monitoring the transmission and distribution of water from the main water storage facility in Richmond to the customer’s tap, monitoring storage levels at St. Croix’s 11 storage tanks, and control of water flow at various pump stations throughout the island.

    Attending the meeting were Board Chair Groner; Secretary Noel Loftus; Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Wayne Biggs; Energy Office Director Karl Knight; Department of Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Alicia Barnes and Donald Francois. Vice Chair Juanita Young and Brenda Benjamin were excused.