Is the sunshine going to light up where the Water and Power Authority hitherto spread darkness? And will the wind blow away the utility’s old debts?
WAPA Governing Board members hoped so Thursday as they approved agreements to kick in gear two wind projects and three solar projects. Andrew Smith, WAPA’s CEO, said the five power purchase agreements would allow the Authority to “access incredibly cheap energy generation for a long time.” He said the projects which could be completed within two to three years would provide a third of the territory’s power needs.
The Public Services Commission has already approved the wind projects, and Smith is expected to present the solar projects to the PSC at its April 11 meeting. He emphasized that there were many components to getting the projects online including permits and land acquisition. He added that much of the land was already owned by the developers or they had options on it.
The contract with St. Croix Wind is not to exceed 35 megawatts, nor is power sold to exceed 12 cents per kilowatt hour for 25 years, with the option for a 5-year extension.
On St. Thomas, the contract with Bovoni Wind is not to exceed 20 megawatts with the same conditions as the St. Croix contract.
The power purchase agreements for solar projects on St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix also have a fixed-price term of 25 years and a five-year extension option.
The St. Croix solar contract is not to exceed 22 MW, the St. John contract is not to exceed 20 MW, and the St. Thomas contract is not to exceed 24 MW.
“Our efforts at the Water and Power Authority are in line with the integrated resource plan and with every utility company in the world’s initiatives in seeking alternative energy sources,” noted Smith in a press release. “A fixed price protects us from volatile commodity prices seen in fuel.”
Also during Thursday’s meeting, Cordell Jacobs, director of transmission and distribution, reported the utility’s effort to accelerate its composite pole project. He said the aim is to finish the project before peak hurricane season starts in September. Smith said the project is 80 percent complete now. The Board approved some contract modifications to accelerate the project.
The poles are being installed in locations where electrical lines cannot go underground. They have an eighty-year lifespan and are designed to withstand sustained wind speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. Over 4,000 have been installed in St.Thomas/St. John District. The majority of the poles that remain to go up are on St. Croix. The project began in 2018.
In financial matters the Board OK’d an extension of the contract with Comprehensive Security for facilities on St. Croix and St. Thomas. It also OK’d WAPA’s Excess General Liability Insurance through April of next year.
Another approval included a cost increase and time extension for the Authority’s Randolph Harley new Wartsilas project. The time extension through December 31, and cost increase will provide the Authority with adequate resources to successfully transition ownership of the new generators to the Authority, according to Chavante Marsh, Interim Project Management Director, while also allowing sufficient time to demobilize and regrade the current build site. The cost increase is $128,000.
Smith noted during the executive director’s report, “The Governor is asking for funds to support the Vitol buyout while the federal process is underway to secure funding. The line of credit is intended to be replaced by the federal funds.”
Smith added that WAPA is scheduled to testify on April 5th at the Committee of the Whole Hearing.