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Wind Power Coming to Tutu Park Mall

Oct. 25, 2008 — Tutu Park Mall is one step closer to being able to operate two 50-kilowatt wind turbines at its site on St. Thomas, after Public Services Commission members approved on Friday an application certifying the mall as a small power provider, or "qualifying facility."
The mall has already entered into a lease purchase agreement with Earth, Wind and Power for the turbines, which should erected by mid-November, according to Gordon W. Anderson, president of Green Power Electric Inc. An interconnection agreement with the V.I. Water and Power Authority still has to be hammered out within the next 60 days — if not, the PSC can still issue an order allowing the mall to hook up to WAPA's power grid, added attorney Emily Sabo, representing both Green Power and Earth, Wind and Power.
The mall does not plan to sell power back to WAPA; instead, its ability to tap into the utility's grid will allow Tutu Park to blend its power sources and reduce its tenants' electricity bills, Anderson said. The turbines will automatically shut down when WAPA has a power outage and will also not be able to provide power to the mall during that time, he explained during a PSC workshop held on St. John.
"If WAPA won't let us hook up, then we won't be able to produce power," Anderson said, adding that the two entities have an "agreement in principal" that still has to be formalized. The 60-day window makes sure the negotiations will happen, and hopefully a signed agreement will be presented at the next PSC meeting, Sabo said later.
The turbines cover about 20 to 25 percent of the mall's power needs, Anderson said. The setup is a win-win situation, he added.
"Green Power identifies markets that have good wind," he explained. "We identify the clients, we present to them this lease product program and we source the product. We find the engineers and general contractors, we build the foundation and we erect the tower. We also oversee the installation and startup of the turbines and provide the maintenance. We sell the turbines to Earth, Wind and Power, an investment group that buys the product and in turn leases it to the customer — that way there's no capital expenditure for the customer.
"They maintain, insure and take care of it — it's helpful to the small businessman that doesn't necessarily have the $300,000 to put these things in."
Voting to approve the application were PSC board members Joseph Boschulte, Donald "Ducks" Cole and M. Thomas Jackson. Board members Verne C. David and Alecia Wells voted against approving the application. Board member Sirri Hamad was absent. David said later that representatives from Tutu Park should have been in attendance during Friday's meeting to answer questions from commission members.
Switching gears, PSC board members also had a brief status report on the V.I. Telephone Co.'s efforts to restore service to the territory in the aftermath of Hurricane Omar. Damage to Vitelco's infrastructure on St. Thomas and St. John was minimal, according to Mickey Breton, the company's vice president of customer service operations. St. Croix, however, was "hard hit," particularly on the east end of the island and in parts of Frederiksted, she said.
A restoration schedule has not yet been put in place for the big island, since Vitelco is currently waiting for WAPA to restore power to certain areas, Breton said.
About 2,000 subscribers are still without service on St. Croix, she added.
Meanwhile, the utility is undergoing a routine rate review by the PSC, whose statute calls for a review to be conducted every five years. At Friday's meeting it was expected that commission members would appoint a new hearing to replace Thomas K. Moore, who was selected in August. According to Boschulte, Moore recently resigned because of his commitment as a delegate to the Fifth Constitutional Convention. The convention was supposed to come to an end in October, but was recently extended until May 2009.
No hearing examiner was appointed Friday because they were unable to hook up a teleconference call to the unidentified appointee. Informed sources indicate that former U.S. Attorney David Nissman is being tapped for the position.
It is expected that every effort will be made to speed up the process because U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Judith K. Fitzgerald has set Dec. 19 as the sale date for the utility, Boschulte said after the meeting.
The sale, originally set for last summer, was postponed because of the rate investigation.
Commission members also received status updates Friday from the territory's three franchise ferry companies. The three-day PSC retreat — which is expected to cost about $20,000 — will wrap up Saturday with WAPA matters.
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