Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority Executive Director Hugo Hodge briefed WAPA governing board members on the fuel oil bids that came in earlier this week but made no major announcements on the subject at a meeting Thursday.
“Our primary goal right now is to make sure we have fuel past the date when Hovensa stops providing fuel for us,” Hodge said.
Hodge acknowledged the anxiety in the community caused by the closing of Hovensa and the meager response to the authority’s previous call for bids in which only one company expressed interest.
Twelve company’s responded to the more recent bid, ensuring the authority has some option for procuring fuel to run the power plants next year. Hodge expressed hope that news of the bids would relieve some of the public’s fears.
WAPA is currently studying the bids and creating a shortlist of potential suppliers. Hodge said the authority was taking pains to “fully understand the benefits and or the consequences of each of the bids,” before moving forward, but indicated that the selection process would happen fairly quickly.
“We plan to have something in place by early October,” he said.
The territory’s current agreement with Hovensa ends Dec. 31, but Hodge said WAPA would be free to purchase fuel from other vendors before that date if it was advantageous.
During the meeting, the board voted on a number of minor issues.
They unanimously agreed to push back the completion date for two contracts with external vendors because of unforeseen delays. They also approved a transfer of funds to pay for emergency repairs made to boilers unit 11 and 13, and they approved a contract for the company Arcadis to perform federally and locally mandated tests on the emissions and efficiency of the stacks at the Randolph Harley facility.
The board also approved the purchase of a spare boiler feed pump for the price of $269,363. Hodge explained that the particular pump they needed would have to be specifically crafted for the facility, so if the current pump failed it could take two to three months to secure a replacement. During that time, the authority could lose up to $2 million a month due to a drop in efficiency.
During his report, Hodge also updated the board on his recent business trip to Hawaii where he was a keynote speaker at a renewable energy conference. He stressed that the expense of the trip was paid for by the conference and not WAPA.
Hodge said the conference focused on the special challenges faced by island communities in providing power.
“There’s a lot of value in being able to share experiences and share not only success but failures, so you can duplicate successes and not duplicate the failures that have already existed in the region and in the Pacific as well,” he said.
Hodge said he learned a great deal about research into ocean thermal energy conversion technology. Hodge explained that OTEC produces energy by utilizing the difference in temperatures at different depths of the ocean, much like geothermal wells on land.
The technology has been touted as a boon for island communities, which have ready access to deep ocean waters. Hodge said OTEC is still being developed, however, and is likely several years away from being implemented widely.