Oct. 7, 2004 – The V. I. Water and Power Authority's Unit 23 may add more generating capacity to St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island sooner than expected.
The constuction of the unit is on a fast track with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency waiver of a pre-construction requirement, according to Alberto Bruno-Vega, WAPA executive director.
The projected completion date has moved up from June of 2005 to December of this year.
This may alleviate concerns of Public Services Commission member Verne David who last week charged that WAPA customers were already paying for Unit 23 even though it had not yet been constructed. Bruno-Vega explained that the Authority had issued bonds to fund construction of Unit 23 and expenses were incurred during construction of the unit.
Unit 23 is a 34-megawatt plant and not seen as a replacement for Unit 22, a 22-megawatt plant, which has had problems in its two-year history. Cassandra Dunn, WAPA spokesperson, said Thursday that most of Unit 22's problems had been resolved and it has been working reliably, although not at top efficiency. She said when Unit 23 does go online; Unit 22 will go down for maintenance and also to allow an opportunity to investigate why its water injection system is not working.
David also expressed concerns at the PSC meeting last week over why WAPA was not suing the manufacturer of Unit 22, since the unit was not working properly. Bruno-Vega said that there was a difference of opinion about why it was not working correctly. He said that a determination about litigation would be made after the unit is shut down and looked at.
The waiver to put Unit 23 on the fast track was the result of a petition by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull in 2002. It allowed WAPA an exemption from the Clean Air Act of 1990. Without the exemption WAPA would have been required to secure a Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit prior to initiating construction of the unit at the Randolph Harley Power Plant. The waiver allows for construction but not operation of the new unit. The petition to grant the waiver received support from Delegate Donna M. Christiansen and Department of Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett.
Unit 23 is a General Electric frame six combustion turbine that utilizes the lighter No. 2 fuel oil or distillate fuel with a low-sulfur content for operation. General Electric, the turnkey contractor responsible for the unit's installation, planned a nine-month construction period after receipt of notice to proceed from WAPA. With the granting of the waiver, WAPA was able to give GE notice to proceed several months earlier than anticipated.
"This is great news for the Authority and for our customers in the St. Thomas, St. John, Water Island district because this turbine is critically needed," Bruno-Vega said. "Unit 23 will allow WAPA the flexibility to meet increasing electrical demand and maintain our reserve planning contingency criteria which consider both planned outages of generating units for maintenance and unplanned outages due to equipment failure," Bruno-Vega said.
In the waiver petition for Unit 23, Turnbull cited that the unit will not jeopardize the maintenance of National Ambient Air Quality Standards and will ultimately reduce air emissions from the Harley Power Plant. The permit for construction of the unit was issued on Sept. 8. Construction of Unit 23 began mid-March of 2004.
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