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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, June 27, 2022
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Virgin Islands Energy Office Blast

Solar to Complement Energy Efficiency The University of Virgin Islands recently took a step on its “Pathways to Greatness” as it signed an agreement that will result in solar power at both campuses. Efforts will result in millions in savings. On July 30, UVI signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with Veriown Energy, a subsidiary of New Generation Power (NGP), which will install three megawatts of solar panels. The panels are expected to produce over two million dollars’ worth of power each year.
“The U.S. Virgin Islands is an extreme case of how run-away energy costs tied to fossil fuels can cripple economies,” said Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria, president and chairman of New Generation Power, chairman of Veriown Energy. “Distributed solar and other distributed energy solutions delivered by Veriown Energy can change the future of the U.S. Virgin Island economy and become a model for other islands that struggle with similar challenges.”
The agreement calls for the construction of solar systems on each of UVI’s two campuses and assistance in reducing the institution’s dependence on fossil fuel by 50 percent by 2015. The photovoltaic system will use approximately 4.2 acres on the St. Thomas Campus and 3.9 acres on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix. The system is expected to produce 4.5 million kilowatt-hours annually.
“With this project, we see the opportunity of distributed solar to unshackle energy consumers from the grips of traditional models of energy generation and distribution,” said Steve Johanns, CEO of Veriown Energy. “This project and collaboration with UVI is just the beginning of a new future leading to cleaner, more efficient, reliable and lower cost energy solutions for the U.S. Virgin Islands.”
“This is a historic and transformative development for the university and the Virgin Islands,” said UVI President David Hall. “Once this project is completed, UVI will have blazed a trail that many universities throughout the world are destined to follow. Energy consumption and costs are crippling challenges facing the Virgin Islands and the broader Caribbean, and this initiative creates a pathway for addressing the problems.”
With distributed solar, distributed generation and microgrids poised to change the face of energy, Veriown Energy brings together top players at every level of the energy value chain to deliver immediate scale and innovation in commercial-sized, distributed energy solutions. Veriown is a spin out of New Generation Power, a global developer of utility scale renewable energy and infrastructure, with booked contract revenues over $600 million.
WAPA to Kick-off VIenergize Services on St. Croix The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority has its St. Croix kick-off of the Vienergize Services Network (VISN) on Aug. 9 and Aug. 10 at the Gov. Juan Luis Cardiac Center and the Rudolph Shulterbrandt Agricultural Complex.
On Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Hospital Cardiac Center, residents will meet federal officials, along with local experts from the V.I. Energy Office, to learn about efficient energy and water projects. Representatives from BPI (The Building Performance Institute Inc.), the nation’s premier credentialing organization, will speak about the importance of developing quality standards in the territory’s emerging energy industry. Business owners will find out how WAPA will assist qualified, local energy-service and product providers through the VIenergize Services Network that connects V.I. businesses with customers. Admission both days is free.
On Saturday, the public is invited to the “Vienergize Fair” at the fairgrounds from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., where the Home Depot will have energy activities for all ages, along with other vendors offering information on their energy efficient products and services. BPI and other energy experts will offer mini seminars to explain how residents, business owners, farmers and others can ensure they are receiving quality energy services.
Residents and energy providers can pre-register for the events by sending an e-mail to vies@viwapa.vi.
Beech Higby III Still Installing Solar After 33 Years Solar companies are abundant in the U.S. Virgin Islands now, but it was not that way 33 years ago. There were thee, maybe four, installers on the islands. Beech Higby III, who founded West Indies Solair on St. Croix in 1980, was one of them. He said he saw a magazine called “Solar Age” back then and thought solar was pretty cool.
He said, “My first wife and I needed something to do, and, of course, we wanted to help save the world.”
He began installing solar water heaters and solar electric systems long before they became popular. The systems he installed in the early years were more difficult than the systems he now installs.
Back then, a system became a system because the installer made it a system. Now, people will tell you that all PV systems today don’t come in a box with all the parts and with detailed instructions where everything goes. They would be correct. Installers still have their work cut out for them – sizing the system for the specific customer, taking into account the customers electricity use, location and available space for panels.
Customers’ wishes can be difficult. They have favorite trees they don’t want to cut down; their roofs seldom face perfectly in the right direction and at the right slope. In recent years, there have been questions about net metering. How is the utility going to pay me for the excess electricity I produce? What do you mean they wipe the slate clean after the end of the year? What? You have to be kidding me, when the utility loses power, I will be shut down.
When the customer finds out that his net-metering system goes down when the utility goes down, he might start arguing that he doesn’t want to net meter; he doesn’t want to be connected to the utility at all. Higby will then have to explain to them that, if they want power when the utility is down, they are going to have to have a parcel of batteries or a generator. The batteries require maintenance, and they can be expensive. This is when the customer might decide to back up and discuss again exactly what a simple grid tied system is? But Higby has overcome those obstacles, often. In a recent e-mail he said, “I have personally installed well over 500 solar hot water heaters equaling over 18,000 square feet of collector, which is the equivalent of over 1 megawatt of electricity being produced each day. I have also personally installed over 100 kilowatts of solar electric systems, most without batteries.”
The first time this writer talked with Beech about solar installations. It was about eight years ago, and Beech wanted everyone to first understand the challenges of solar systems. His explanation, in the words as I remember them, went like this: Installing a one kilowatt system is going to cost you at least $10,000. You average five hours of perfect sun in the Virgin Islands each day. This means that you will produce about 5 kilowatt hours of power each day. Since the cost of kilowatt hour here is about 25 cents. Each day you produce about a dollar and a quarter of power each day. It takes a while to pay off a $10,000 investment.”
But a lot has changed since then. The cost of power in the Virgin islands has tripled, and the cost of panels has been cut in half. In other words, if a project took sixteen years to pay for itself back then; it now only takes less than four years. It is without a doubt a good investment now.
Higby won’t say that he is getting rich, but he does say he stays busy. He adds with pride that his business has been built around customer satisfaction and word of mouth advertising.

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