The V.I. Water and Power Authority board moved ahead Friday with a procurement contract that would bring three new generators to St. Thomas, along with financing for another leased unit that will bring the district close to 100 percent liquefied propane gas production.
During a meeting on St. Thomas, the board approved entering into an engineering, procurement and construction contract with Wartsila North America for three seven-megawatt generators at a total cost of $34 million. It is WAPA’s intention to own the generators, which WAPA officials have said would go a long way toward stabilizing power on St. Thomas and St. John.
The Wartsila contract in particular has been a bone of contention for some Public Services Commission members, who have said in meetings over the past month that the arrangement needed to be finalized in order for both sides to be able to move ahead with an interim base rate agreement that the PSC, which regulates WAPA, most recently rescinded.
According to PSC members, finalizing the Wartsila contract was still necessary for the approval of any permanent base rate increases, which will soon be reviewed by a hearing examiner.
The approval of the Wartsila contract also allows WAPA to begin taking some of its older generating units out of commission.
“The acquisition of these units will allow WAPA to begin the process of right-sizing the generation needed to more efficiently meet the demand for electric service in the St. Thomas-St. John district,” WAPA Executive Director Julio Rhymer said. “With the advent of LPG fuel to generate electricity in both districts, the revamping of our generation will lead to additional savings due to more efficient operations.”
To support the changes to WAPA’s generating system, board members also approved another amendment to WAPA’s Near Term Generation action plan and a procurement waiver for generating facilities at the Randolph Harley Generation Plant on St. Thomas. The plan, according to officials, takes into account the utility’s urgent need for the procurement and installation of new units, how new generators are selected, the financing needed to support the plan, and the need for a procurement process for short and long-term generating options, among other things.
The board also authorized Rhymer to secure a line of credit with Banco Popular to cover the cost of leasing an additional generating unit that would bring the St. Thomas-St. John district closer to 100 percent LPG production and allow WAPA to put its largest unit, Unit 23, in for maintenance and fuel conversion.
Unit 23, which is two years overdue for maintenance, also currently still burns oil, according to officials, and needs to be converted to a dual system, which also burns LPG.
Present at Friday’s meeting were board members Elizabeth Armstrong, Cheryl Boynes Jackson, Devin Carrington, Gerald Groner, Gustav James, Noel Loftus, Marvin Pickering, Hubert Turnbull and Juanita Young.