Press Release Details

Estate Richmond Power Plant Normalized After Faulty Switchgear Repaired; Damaged Insulator In Switchgear Identified As Cause Of Weekend Island-Wide Service Interruptions

Apr 06, 2020


The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority
Corporate Communications


Contact: Jean P. Greaux, Jr., Director of Corporate Communications
340-774-3552 extension 2147 or 340-244-7330

communications@viwapa.vi / www.viwapa.vi

April 6, 2020




      Personnel at the Estate Richmond Power Plant have completed repairs to the damaged switchgear which contributed to electrical service interruptions on St. Croix this weekend. The switchgear has been returned to service, and plant operations are normalized.

      In a news briefing Sunday evening, Executive Director / Chief Executive Officer Lawrence J. Kupfer said the weekend outages were not related to the generating units but instead to the switchgear that supplies power to systems that support the generating units. “The power systems provide electrical service to auxiliary equipment that support the functionality of the generators such as fans, pumps, and air compressors. The systems also provide electrical service to other parts of the plant as well as air conditioning systems for the control room, and general lighting around the plant.”

      Before electrical service could be restored to customers on Saturday, personnel isolated the faulty switchgear, and setup a portable air compressor to operate Unit 20. “We utilized Unit 20 and another unit to restore service to all customers shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday. A short while after, Unit 20 tripped as the restoration was occurring at a high peak demand period. Simply put, the demand for electricity from our customers outpaced the available capacity at the plant at that moment,” Kupfer said, explaining that all customers were restored once the plant brought its LPG-powered Aggreko units online along with two other generators.

      On Sunday morning just before 5 a.m., the portable air compressor that was maintaining the operation of Unit 20 failed, causing the unit to trip, and the plant to lose generation capacity. After rectifying a fuel-related issue, the compressor was restarted, the generating unit was brought online, and service to customers restored. “Responding to a call from WAPA, J. Benton Construction, a construction company on St. Croix, provided an additional portable compressor to WAPA to assist with power plant functionality until repairs to the switchgear were competed. I thank J. Benton Construction, Vivot, and GEC for their willingness to support our need for assistance during this period,” Kupfer said. 

      By Sunday night, the switchgear and its associated components were repaired, and the plant’s operations were normalized.

      In an unrelated development, also on Sunday, line department and system planning engineers were required to modify the electric grid configuration to address technical issues at the Gregory E. Willocks electrical substation. Crews worked through the afternoon to take corrective action, and the grid configuration was later restored to its normal settings. The work to normalize the grid required a late Sunday night service interruption affecting the west end of the island, customers on Feeders 8B, 9B, and 10B. The work was completed early Monday morning.

      Chief Operating Officer of Electric System Clinton Hedrington, Jr. heaped praise on the WAPA employees who worked Saturday and Sunday to restore operations at the Estate Richmond Power Plant, and at the Willocks substation. “The power plant guys worked long and hard the last two days to return our operations to normal. They worked under extreme conditions and I commend their efforts at the plant and the intelligence they brought to the table to take the steps needed to return power to St. Croix. The process of pulling the plant’s systems back together after such failure is no easy task, it is tedious, its lengthy, and WAPA’s finest was on display this weekend with our plants operations and maintenance personnel as well as our system engineers. We oftentimes overlook their contributions but without them this weekend, the restoration would not have been as easily achieved.”

      Kupfer described the weekend events as a one-off situation. “The plant is more stable now, our four generating units are in good shape, and I might point out that in a few weeks we will be installing new switchgear at the Richmond power plant which will add further reliability to operations. The new switchgear was ordered some months ago and is currently being constructed for delivery to St. Croix. 

      As of mid-morning Monday, the Richmond Power Plant was operating on 100% LPG with Unit 20 and the Aggreko generators dispatched.


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About WAPA: The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority is an autonomous agency of the Virgin Islands Government which produces and distributes electricity and drinking water to residential and commercial customers in the territory. WAPA was created by the Fifth Legislature of the Virgin Islands in 1964 through Act No. 1248. Today, WAPA generates electrical power at production plants on St. Thomas and St. Croix and distributes electrical service through smart grids to customers on St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John, Hassel Island, and Water Island. Potable water is distributed to almost 13,000 customers through water lines and standpipes. WAPA also has the responsibility of installing and maintaining streetlights.