March 3, 2006- In September 2004 Alberto Bruno-Vega, executive director for Water and Power Authority, announced WAPA was requesting bids from independent power producers. The announcement was made amidst controversy because the Public Services Commission did not approve the method WAPA was using.
A year and a half later WAPA has made a selection, which is Innoventor Technologies of Maryland Heights, Mo., but the controversy remains.
Myron Allick, vice president of operations for the St. Croix Renaissance Group, wrote a four-page letter to the PSC protesting the selection.
The letter says, "It is our opinion that Mr. Bruno Vega on behalf of WAPA, and contrary to the benefit of the ratepayers of the U.S. Virgin Islands, acted arbitrarily, in bad faith and in violation of law (Act No 6760 signed by Gov. Turnbull on 19 September 2005)."
WAPA responded with a press release this week saying "The V.I. Water and Power Authority will provide comments at the appropriate forum about letters sent by St. Croix Renaissance to the Public Services Commission and Senate President Lorraine Berry objecting to the selection of Innoventor Technologies as a small power producer."
The matter is scheduled to get a hearing March 9.
Innoventor proposes to use 12 wind turbines, each supplying 1.65 megawatts for a total of 19.8 megawatts of power – or about one-third of WAPA's daily need for St. Croix.
The Renaissance Group, which was one of the three companies that replied to WAPA's request for bids, purchased the 1,244-acre site belonging to the St. Croix Alumina Plant in 2002. Renaissance would use coal to generate its electricity. It reportedly can produce 60-80 megawatts of power. It was certified in November of 2004 by the PSC. (See " Renaissance Certified by PSC as Potential Supplier").
The lack of certification is one of the objections that Renaissance raises to the award of the contract to Innoventor. In his letter to the PSC, Allick writes, " Innoventor Technologies of Maryland Heights, Minnesota, does not have a site for its wind farm; has not been certified by the Public Services Commission; does not have financing for its project, does not have the necessary permits for its project; and is utilizing technology untried for our latitude/region."
WAPA did not make PSC certification a requirement of its request for bids with the assumption that the certification could take place after the awarding of bids.
Bruno-Vega said in the WAPA press release, "WAPA looks forward to fully presenting to the senators and the public all the facts associated with the RFP process. We will pay particular attention to explaining the results of the rigorous evaluation of technologies and costs proposed by the respondents, which was undertaken by WAPA's Evaluation Committee and technical consultants. We will also detail how the final selection was made."
But the contract with Innoventor has already run into problems. WAPA will be asking the Senate to approve a 60-day extension "to provide an opportunity for Innoventor Technologies and WAPA to conclude negotiations and finalize an agreement."
WAPA's announced goal in getting supplemental power from an alternative producer is to get away from its dependency on oil and its constantly rising prices. Some residents have seen a proposal to use Renaissance and its coal-generated power as not a step forward because it would mean that WAPA is still dependent on a fossil fuel.
The American Wind Association reports on its Web page, "The U.S. wind energy industry easily broke earlier annual installed capacity records in 2005, installing nearly 2,500 megawatts or over $3 billion worth of new generating equipment in 22 states. Instead of the slow year that has previously followed boom years for the industry, 2006 is expected to be even bigger, with installations topping 3,000 MW."
Allick in his letter says that wind power will only be able to supply a small amount of power and will not significantly reduce the cost of power to residents. He writes, "With this option, WAPA will still be required to run its expensive fuel generation machinery as spinning reserve at considerable cost and no improvement to system reliability."
The WAPA press release states, "Innoventor has proposed to provide wind, a renewable energy source, to the utility by June 30, 2008, the deadline set by the RFP process."
The senate has been involved in the process by trying to connect the contract with a supplemental energy provider with job creation. It passed the Job Creation Act of 2005 last year and Turnbull signed it into law last September. The law requires that $20 million be invested in St. Croix and 400 jobs be created with 90 percent of them filled by V.I. residents.
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