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St. Croix’s Estate Spanish Town Solar Project Groundbreaking

(Thursday, August 15, 2013)

On Friday, August 16, at 10 a.m. the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority and Toshiba International Corporation (TIC) will break ground on a 4 MW (megawatt) solar power project in Estate Spanish Town on St. Croix.  With the launch of this project, the Authority is well on its way to the Governor’s mandated goal of 60% reduction in the Territory’s fossil fuel use by 2025.

WAPA signed a 20 year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Toshiba International Corporation (TIC), on June 4, 2012, for the integration of approximately 4MW of solar energy into St. Croix’s electrical grid.  After such time the Authority can either purchase the solar system or renegotiate the purchase agreement. The Authority also signed PPA’s with Sun Edison for 25 years, and Lanco Virgin Islands for 20 years, for a total of 18 MW of solar energy territory wide.

Solar energy is the conversion of sunlight into electricity, either indirectly using concentrated solar power (CSP) or directly, through photovoltaic (PV) which is the creation of voltage or electric current in a material upon exposure to light.  WAPA will use the PV method. 

Toshiba will engineer, procure and construct a solar array power plant in Estate Spanish Town and connect the facility directly to the new WAPA Midland Substation currently under construction. This plant is designed to include approximately 19,600 255Watt PV modules connected to eight 500 kilowatt (kW) inverters.  There will be approximately 817 solar racking structures mounted to follow the site terrain on driven piles. The inverters will be housed in buildings to protect them from the environment. 

There are several advantages to operating a solar plant which include less expensive maintenance for the solar panels in the array than a gas turbine which has many mechanical parts, generating energy from the sun is noise free, solar power reduces environmental threats associated with global warming, and renewable energy sources such as solar are generally limitless.

With no up-front cost from the Authority, the Toshiba PPA begins at $0.155/kwh, escalating at 1.5% annually representing a levelized cost of $0.1716/kwh over the term of the 20-year contract. These rates are below WAPA’s avoided cost, which is the amount it would cost to produce the same amount of energy in the power plants. The Estate Spanish Town’s 4MW system represents approximately 8% of St. Croix’s peak and approximately 3% of the territory’s peak. Once it is installed, the Authority will be less dependent on more expensive fossil fuel which represents savings to the utility and will help to reduce customer rates. 

Toshiba International Corporation was selected based on its experience, reputations and financial and credit strengths. The company has erected at least seven solar sites in environments very similar to the Virgin Islands.

The Estate Spanish Town project is expected to be completed by the end of first quarter 2014.