In a joint letter addressed to David Agnew, director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, the governors ask the White House to provide leadership and interagency coordination to “to ensure that all the federal agencies work synergistically towards its successful realization.”
The 50-mile submarine cable would connect the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to the V.I. Water and Power Authority. Puerto Rico could then sell excess capacity to the Virgin Islands, reducing electrical costs for both territories while improving the stability of the grid in the event of a natural disaster. The territories would expand the size of their energy markets and make the development of renewable energy more economically feasible.
Assistant Secretary of the Interior Anthony Babauta hosted an interagency meeting last September, discussing a technical feasibility study conducted by Siemens Energy which concluded a connection between the two territories is technically and economically feasible.
“We were very encouraged by the expressions of support of the many federal agencies represented there, including the Departments of Commerce, State, and Agriculture,” the joint letter reads.
The project is more than a means to provide cheaper and more stable power to the Virgin Islands; or an opportunity to sell excess capacity for Puerto Rico, according to a statement from Government House. The two governors argue the interconnection advances larger national interests of promoting foreign policy objectives while dovetailing with major policy initiatives of President Barack Obama's administration.
The administration is seeking to promote regional cooperation with the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas. The project would serve that end “by providing a prime example of how the federal government and two U.S. territories in the Caribbean partnered and worked together to make this electrical interconnection possible,” the governors write.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton both pointed out and listed the benefits of the project and the even greater potential of a Caribbean-wide electricity grid in remarks they delivered at the 2010 Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas Ministerial.
In tough economic times, money is a central concern with this and all major capital projects. The next step forward for the project is to secure some $3 million to fund an environmental feasibility study, according to Government House.
The Siemens study recommended several cables, installed in phases, connecting Puerto Rico to St. Thomas and St. Thomas to the British Virgin Islands, and lastly Puerto Rico to St. Croix. The first phase would run from Fajardo to St. Thomas across 50 miles of ocean, and could be either AC or DC current, with either 100 or 200 megawatts of capacity.
This week's letter refers only to the Fajardo-St. Thomas cable. If the two governors and Delegate Donna Christensen are successful in getting federal assistance and getting the first phase in place, next would come a connection to the BVI, with two AC cables: 20 miles from Krum Bay Substation to East End Substation, then another 17 miles to Pockwood Pond Substation on Tortola. While shorter than the St. Thomas cable, they serve little purpose until the St. Thomas cable is in place and delivering power.
For St. Croix, WAPA is looking at a 79-mile 100 megawatt DC cable between Yabucoa Substation in Puerto Rico and Frederiksted Substation on St. Croix, which would have a maximum depth of 5,640 feet. It is further and deeper than the proposed St. Thomas cable, and about 300 feet deeper than the deepest existing power cable, pushing the edges of existing technology.