The V.I. Water and Power Authority is celebrating its 50th anniversary by getting some major projects online, including a 4.2 megawatt solar facility on St. Thomas that broke ground Tuesday.
In 2012, WAPA signed power purchase agreements with Toshiba International Corp., Lanco Virgin Islands and Sun Edison LLC that would help provide a combined 18 megawatts of solar energy between the two districts. The next step in the summer of 2013 was breaking ground in St. Croix’s Estate Spanish Town on the first of the two solar facilities, which will put 800 panels on the ground and integrate approximately 4 megawatts of solar energy into the island’s electrical grid.
Main Street Power, in conjunction with Morgan Stanley, later took over the project on St. Thomas, which will also put thousands of solar panels on 33 acres of already cleared land in Estate Donoe. Tuesday’s groundbreaking was held on the new site, bringing project facilitators, engineers and WAPA officials out to commemorate the occasion.
WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. explained to the crowd that the authority’s solar plan was executed “strategically,” from the development of the contract to figuring out where the panels will eventually be placed. Hodge said WAPA’s main strategy was “flexibility,” so that no matter what happened, the project would not be delayed.
“When we first negotiated this contract with Lanco Solar, they announced they were closing their North America offices and I know there were rumors circulating about that,” he said. “But the contract was written in a way that allows for these things to happen and here we are today, still moving forward.”
The Public Services Commission later approved a revised 25-year power purchase agreement with Main Street Power for the solar plant, which is expected to be complete by January 2015.
Hodge said after the press conference that the company is covering all of the upfront costs for the construction, with WAPA only paying for the power that is put on their grid.
“We have been structuring a lot of projects like this so we don’t have to use our scarce cash resources,” he explained. “And while the facility will generate enough power to cover only about 3 percent of the district’s electrical load,” Hodge said it gives WAPA a way to put clean energy on the grid during the peak hours of the day.
A Main Street Power representative said during the ceremony that approximately 40 to 50 construction jobs will be generated through the project over the next few months.