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WAPA Board Approves Plant Overhaul Expenses

The governing board of the V. I. Water and Power Authority voted on several expenditures and discussed financial matters at a meeting Thursday on St. Croix that was teleconferenced to St. Thomas.

Board members attending the meeting were attorney Gerald Groner, chairman; Wayne Biggs, commissioner of V.I. Licensing and Consumer Affairs; Karl Knight, director of the V.I. Energy Office; Alicia Barnes, commissioner of Planning and Natural Resources; Noel Loftus; and Juanita Young, vice chairwoman.

The first two action items were presented by Ira Bowry, plant superintendent of the Richmond Power Plant, who requested almost half a million dollars for replacement parts at Unit 17 on St. Croix.

A new gas turbine first stage nozzle, with a $217, 600 price tag, should be ordered now for a plant overhaul in the spring, Bowry said. The last overhaul was in 2004 and, because of wear-and-tear, a spare nozzle would be “prudent,” he said. Buying it now will reduce equipment down time during the overhaul, he pointed out. A first stage nozzle distributes gas evenly through the turbine.

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Other parts needed for the overhaul include first stage buckets, first stage shroud blocks, combustion liners and a first stage nozzle support ring at a cost of $270,705.

The board unanimously approved the purchases.

At the request of Gregory Rhymer, WAPA chief operating officer, the board approved setting up three local bank accounts to comply with legal mandates for tracking and segregating funds.

One account, a trust fund, will be set up for Other Post Employees Benefits that must be held separate according to the Public Services Commission. The OPEB funds are monies to pay for insurance for WAPA retirees.

“We have begun the process of setting and assessing money so promises will be kept,” Groner said. “OPEB is a very significant aspect of WAPA employee benefits.”

A bank account also will be opened for VIenergize Services and will be self-funded from services provided to consumers to help reduce water and energy consumption/costs. Rhymer said the account will be funded by energy audits and will “not cost rate payers.”

The $.14 fuel tax funds will be held also in a separate bank account and used only for the purchase of new units, or the conversion of existing generating units, according to Acts 7360 and 7574 enacted by the 30th Legislature. Projected annual income is estimated at $5 – $6 million, according to Hugo Hodge, WAPA executive director.

Groner said the first use of the funds will be for the waste heat recovery boiler for St. Thomas. A waste heat recovery boiler helps WAPA make water through a steam process.

Hodge’s report consisted of reassuring the board that the conversion to liquefied petroleum gas, or propane, is on schedule. Hodge said he just returned from a LPG meeting in Atlanta “excited about the benefits to the territory.”

The WAPA board approved the alternative energy conversion plan in 2012 in an effort to lower the cost of power to the territory. Utility rates for Virgin Islanders are some of the highest in the U.S. The plan calls for conversion of WAPA’s generators eventually to burn tri-fuel – LPG, natural gas and diesel.

Don Gregoire, supervisor of the Richmond plant’s preventative maintenance department, described his work for WAPA during the WAPA Working for You segment of the meeting. He said his department improves the life of the authority’s equipment, reduces cost, saves time and provides safety for staff and the public.

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