June 22, 2005 — Members of the Public Services Commission and V.I. residents have been demanding for years that the V.I. Water and Power Authority improve its efficiency.
In a press release Tuesday, WAPA explained how it was going to do exactly that: improve efficiency.
The press release also points out that during this hi-tech improvement, the overall grid on St. Croix will be operating without generators it often relies on.
St. Croix's gas turbine generator, Unit 17, will be out of service through September while a unit upgrade is performed to coat the blades of the turbine. While the generator is down, technicians will analyze the control mechanisms and upgrade controls, as necessary.
Also during this period, Unit 10's steam turbine will be down for analysis to determine whether it should be replaced or repaired.
The generators being taken off line should cause no interruption to service. St. Croix has six generators. Four will remain operational during this period. Three can supply the average 54 megawatts needed each day on St. Croix.
The release also cited other areas where WAPA is trying to enhance efficiency and reduce line loss on all islands. Those include:
Surveying distribution lines and identifying locations to install capacitor banks to reduce line loss and improve the power factor. WAPA will begin installing capacitors in September.
Surveying all transformers and transformer banks to see if they are over- or undersized. WAPA will replace them with the proper size to prevent losses created from heat that is not converted to electrical energy.
Surveying conductors to see if they are properly sized. This is known as economic conductor sizing.
Changing out conductors with aluminum core wiring to those with state-of-the-art copper core wiring, as copper is a better conductor of electricity. This will reduce line loss and improve energy efficiency.
Surveying for hot spots on the distribution systems. Rays from infrared guns will detect slack connections, which are generating heat instead of useful electricity. These connections will be immediately adjusted to eliminate the wasted energy.
Acquire another waste heat recovery boiler, which will increase the efficiency of gas turbine units 16 and 20. It is anticipated that a request for this proposal will be released within 90 days, and by year's end, a contract for construction will be awarded. The boiler will be installed within 18 months after the contract is awarded and environmental permits are approved.
Re-engineering the business and billing systems in cooperation with an outside utility efficiency expert and a WAPA employee team. This should result in more accurate meter reading and billing, and more efficiency in other customer service areas.
Recalibrating and resealing meters in an ongoing effort to reduce theft and loss of service. Cases of theft are being referred to the attorney general's office for prosecution. WAPA has implemented new, stronger policies to address protection of its company assets.
Darryl Miller, an organizer with the St. Croix Alliance to Protect Utility Ratepayers, was not that excited to hear the news. He said, "If we don't see it [improved efficiency] in a reduction in rates, it doesn't mean anything to us."
Miller, who spoke before the Senate last month, said his group is hoping to meet with WAPA Executive Director Alberto Bruno-Vega next week to discuss these issues.
In his presentation before the Senate, Miller advocated for WAPA to take actions similar to many indicated on its Tuesday press release — such as reducing unaccounted losses of energy, correcting inefficiencies in management systems and improving computing systems.
WAPA concluded its release by urging its customers to continue to conserve energy in their homes and businesses.
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