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Board Approves Tibbar Energy Agreement; Awards McFarlane Scholarships

(Friday, June 28, 2013)

The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority Governing Board met Thursday on St. Croix and approved a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement with Tibbar Energy USVI, LLC.  Tibbar Energy is a St. Croix based renewable energy company that will generate and sell 7 MW of base load power to WAPA from their Giant King Grass anaerobic digester facility. Tibbar’s process consists of growing a non-invasive, USDA approved agricultural energy crop on 1500 acres throughout St. Croix, which will then be fed to the anaerobic facility. This process creates the biogas which is then fed into generators to create electrical energy. 

“This process is unique in the sense that while it is renewable, it doesn’t depend on the weather,” said WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge, Jr.  “This also puts us on track to meet the governor’s mandate of at least 20% renewable on the grid by 2015 and to reduce by 60% the use of fossil fuel by 2025.”  Tibbar guarantees the availability of the product throughout the term of the agreement.  “There is no downside economically,” Hodge continued, “They have agreed to pay the penalties if they can’t produce the product.” In a separate agreement, the Board authorized Hodge to enter into an Interconnection agreement with Tibbar Energy, which will allow the electrical interconnection of the proposed power generation facility on St. Croix.  This agreement will ensure adequate measures are taken to protect the reliability of WAPAs electrical system. Hodge lauded the efforts of counsel and staff for the exceptional job they did to protect the interests of the Authority and the Territory with the drafting of the agreement.

As WAPA moves to a greener cleaner generation of power, it is also mindful of the requirements of a highly trained workforce.  To that end, Hodge presented to the Board this year’s Alva C. McFarlane scholars.  Ja’Ren Harris and Myles Ventura each received $20,000 awards to pursue engineering technology degrees. Kareem Edwards and La’Ron Henry each received awards in the amount of $60,000 for engineering degrees. These awards will assist the scholars with attaining their respective degrees.

Harris, a graduate of the Charlotte Amalie High School is the son of Lisa and John Harris (both deceased), who was raised by his maternal grandmother, Ms. Parima Harvey.  Harris will pursue a degree in Electronic Engineering Technology at North Carolina A&T State University.  He was a member of A.Y.O. (Anglican Youth Organization) and a Second Lieutenant in the Army Junior R.O.T.C. program.

Edwards, the 2013 Salutatorian of the Good Hope School, will attend the Georgia Institute of Technology to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He is the son of Selecita Royer and Paul Edwards.  He was the Vice President of the Good Hope Chapter of the National Honor Society, a member of Interact Club (a branch of Rotary), a host on Graffiti Street and a member of the Youth Advisory Council.

Ventura graduated from the St. Croix Educational Complex and will pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology at Texas State Technical College. He is the son of Aretha and Marcellino Ventura.  A former youth counselor with the Superior Court Rising Stars Steel Orchestra, Ventura is also a member of Boys to Men and the Video & Audio Team at Speak the Word Ministries.

Henry is a 2011 graduate of the All Saints Cathedral School. He is a second year student at Savannah State University in Georgia, pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering.  He is the son of Laurel Joseph and Ronald Henry.  Henry is a former member of Interact Club and the Superior Court Rising Stars Steel Orchestra.  He is currently a member of Savannah State University’s International Students Association.

Recipients of the Alva C. McFarlane Scholarship are selected based on their academic achievement, college entrance test scores, financial need, community involvement and the needs of the Authority.  At the completion of their studies, awardees must return home to work at WAPA for a minimum of four years. This scholarship was established in honor of the late Alva C. McFarlane who while serving as a WAPA board member was a great advocate of youth and technical education.

Thursday’s “WAPA Working for You” presenter was Robert Ventura, Jr.  Ventura is a 2008 Alva McFarlane technology scholar who earned an electrical engineering degree at Miami Dade College.  He is currently an Instrument Technician Second Class in the Production Department on St. Croix.  Ventura’s presentation detailed some of the instruments he is trained to use, all of which test systems for their functionality.   “The goal of an instrument technician,” said Ventura “is to have the system working on automatic as opposed to it being operated manually.” Board members commended Ventura on his depth of knowledge and the poise he displayed while explaining the instruments used in his day to day duties. Hodge noted that employees like Ventura are testament to the benefits of the scholarship program and the knowledge recipients bring back to the community.

In the executive director’s report, Hodge spoke of his recent trip to the CARILEC annual CEO meeting.  CARILEC is an association of electric utilities throughout the Caribbean region that share similar interest and challenges in the generation of water and power. Hodge, who has severed as a board member for the past three years, was elected Vice Chairman at the CEO’s meeting, during which the leaders discussed the hardships faced by the entire Caribbean community regarding high energy costs.  Discussions also focused on hurricane agreements and how the islands can assist each other if needed after a disaster.   They looked at best practices and ways the islands could help each other through setting regional standards for each type of transmission and distribution system.    “We’re leading the pack in the entire region for recording the lowest line losses.  We’ve been asked for our best practices,” said Hodge.  He mentioned the toughest task throughout the region is addressing comparative energy pricing which has been difficult because there are different rate structures based on various factures including government subsidies for customers. 

Hodge extended his appreciation to the WAPA Board for allowing him to participate on a regional level.  “Right now everyone is watching the LPG project we are embarking on, said Hodge. “ It will change the way we go about doing business.  Our success will become a model for the region.  We have become a leader in many areas,” Hodge concluded. 

The Governing Board also took the following action:

  •  Approved change order #1 request from Fortress Electric for $41,194.81 to purchase materials for the Christiansted Underground Phase II Electrical Cable Installation.
  •  Approved the purchase of additional 69KV GIS and relay protection equipment (from Dashiell Corporation at a cost not to exceed $2,902,696. This approval allows the authority to purchase the equipment timely before the prices increase.
  •  Approved the extension of time on SC-27-12 from May 31 to November 30, 2013; to allow the installation and acceptance of St. Croix Units 10 and 11 Control Systems by General Electric International, Inc.
  •  Approved a contract with Patrick Charles Enterprises for Emergency and Supplemental labor at a total of $300,000 for the Randolph E. Harley Power Plant, and $600,000for the Richmond Power Plant.
  •  Approved a contract to Sulzer Turbo Services Inc., in the amount of $1,306,455 to perform the major inspection and repairs of St. Croix Unit #16 Gas Turbine and Generator.  
  •  Authorized $534,500 to contract Harris Utilities for the MeterSense Meter Data Management (MDM) system to leverage raw smart data to improve customer service, reduce costs and increase operational performance and reliability.
  •  Amended the May 23, 2013 action by the Governing Board to correct a clerical error in the contract award amount from $2,273,060 to $2,473,060 for Rockwell Automation for the installation, certification and round-the-clock maintenance and repair of an environmental reporting system for air emissions and employee training at both power plants.
  •  Authorized the Executive Director to enter into a contract with Comprehensive Security Concepts, Inc., at a cost not to exceed $691,280 to provide in the St. Thomas and St. John district from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014.
  •  Approved the Authority entering into a one-year agreement and an option for a one year renewal with BDO as the new independent external auditors at a cost of $340,000. BDO will provide services to complete the Authority’s audit ending FY June 30, 2013.
  •  Authorized funding in the amount of $1,333,648 to contract Apex Covantage to provide meter/module installation and project management services as part of WAPA’s new Tantalus AMI system development.
  •  Authorized the Executive Director to negotiate and enter into formal agreements with Sumter Utilities, Inc.; BBC Electrical Company; Bison Electric Inc.; and Service Electric Company to assist the Authority with emergency restoration services in the aftermath of a hurricane or natural disaster.

Board members in attendance were Chairman Atty. Gerald Groner, Vice Chair Juanita R. Young, Secretary Noel Loftus, Planning Committee Chair VIEO Director Karl Knight, Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Alicia Barnes, Elizabeth Armstrong and Donald Francois. Excused were Licensing and Consumer Commissioner Wayne Biggs and Cheryl Boynes Jackson.

 

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