Town Hall Meeting to Discuss St. John Smart Grid Initiative
The Virgin Islands Energy Office held a town meeting on St. John on Aug. 30 to discuss a project to bring stability and reliability to the electric grid on St. John. All residents and business persons are invited to learn about the proposal and to make comments. Energy Director Karl Knight, as well as others involved in the proposal, will be on hand to answer questions.
The project would give St. John a smart grid that can function effectively with a good percentage of alternative energy with some new storage capacity. Funding for the project would come from an economic development grant through the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The meeting was at 6:30 p.m. in St. Ursula's Multipurpose Center in Cruz Bay.
Complex High Gets Solar Donation
Commissioner of Education Laverne Terry, left and Director Karl Knight, second from right, were among those at St. Croix Education Complex July 18 to thank Tim Blackwell, second from left, of OneWorld Sustainable, for a donation of a solar installation to the school. Also attending the ceremony were Complex Principal Willard John, center, and Eduardo Corniero. Here is a video of remarks by the Energy Office Director from the event and from the educators.
From St. John
To St. Croix
Through St. Thomas
Residents, busineses and government facilities are going solar
The federally funded Energy Office grants that helped fund many of the solar energy projects (such as the three in the photographs above) are no longer available. But even without rebates, solar photovoltaic (PV) dealers in the Virgin Islands report that business remains brisk and residents continue to call and ask how they can get PV systems installed at their homes.
The economics of having a PV system in the Virgin Islands are looking better and better as fossil fuel becomes more costly. After all, once the system is paid for, the power generated is pretty well free. While the initial investment remains a problem for some, the amount of up-front capital needed to go solar has gotten smaller since the initiation of the net-metering program in the territory a little over five years ago. Also the announcement of the closing of Hovensa has sparked additional energy is alternative energy. Kelly Gloger, Managing Partner, Solar Delivered, says, “We have seen a quadrupling of monthly sales since the January announcement that HOVENSA would be closing.”
Instead of buying batteries for storage, residents can send their excess power to the Water and Power Authority (WAPA) and retrieve it when they need it—essentially using WAPA as their battery. About 100 residents are now taking part in the net-metering program. The program is limited to 20-kilowatt (kW) systems for residential customers and 100-kW systems for commercial customers. In the aggregate, WAPA is allowing net-metering systems to total 5 megawatts (MW) on St. Croix and 10 MW on St. Thomas.
WAPA must set limits on renewable generation because of the need to maintain the stability of the power distribution system as increasing levels of renewables are brought online. Unlike traditional sources of energy, which are constantly available or “dispatchable,” wind and solar resources are intermittent in nature. So when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine, keeping the lights on becomes more of a challenge—especially for small island grids.
Presently, those 5 MW and 10 MW limits seem a long way off, but they may well become a concern for WAPA in a year or two. Just a few years ago, the Nature Conservancy’s 7.9-kW PV system in Little Princess on St. Croix was recognized as the largest in the Virgin Islands. Now, it is not even close. Installation of systems larger than 8 kilowatts have become weekly events in the islands.
Something else new is that residents, with just a couple clicks of the mouse, can get real-time data on how PV systems are producing in the Virgin Islands. The Energy Office has a Web page that provides links to various resources that provide that information (insert URL here when available). For example:
- The Enphase Energy (https://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/public_systems) website features a clickable map that links to information about 24 different solar system installations in the Virgin Islands, including present power production and the history of power production at each site. Also displayed is information about how much pollution is being reduced by using the solar panels instead of burning fossil fuel to produce the power. People concerned about the environment may be pleasantly surprised by how much carbon offset these facilities have achieved.
For people who want to know how much power is produced by the largest PV system in the islands, the one at the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas, can go to http://www.alsoenergy.com/satcon/PowerLobby.aspx?sid=26542&source=Satcon&lang=en-US. The system is estimated to produce enough electricity to save the Port Authority roughly $900 a day . Rough calculation, show the the system producing about 644,000 kWh’s per year.
- Students at the St. Croix Educational Complex will have such a tool available to them when they return to classes in the fall. One World Sustainable is donating a 1-kW PV system and will be and installing it at the school this summer.
Although wind energy market has not taken off as quickly as the solar market in the Virgin Islands, it too has seen growth, and there is even a site where residents can get real-time data on an active wind project. The data comes from the turbine installed at the St. Croix Reformed Church. That site is located at http://stcroixreformed.org/our-wind-turbine/.
For more information on renewable energy options and other Virgin Islands energy issues, go to www.vienergy.org or call 713.8436 on St. Croix and 714.8436 on St. Thomas or St. John.
Solar power purchase, interconnection agreements signed
The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority signed solar power purchase and interconnection agreements June 4 at a ceremony hosted by Gov. John P. de Jongh Jr. at Government House on St. Thomas. The three companies: Toshiba International Corporation; Lanco Virgin Islands I, LLC; and Sun Edison, LLC will provide approximately 9 MW (megawatts) of solar energy, per district, into WAPA’s electrical grid. For more information about the agreements click here. For a video of the signing click here.
Seated from left to right: WAPA Executive Director/CEO Hugo V. Hodge, Jr.; Frances Yuhas, Authorized Representative for Sun Edison, LLC; Bill Morrow, General Manager for North America of Lanco Group and Vice President of Lanco Solar International (US), Inc.; Mark Lonkevych, Sr. Vice President and General Manager at Toshiba International Corporation
Standing from left to right: WAPA Board Chair Juanita R. Young; Lt. Gov. Gregory R. Francis; Gov. John P. de Jongh, Jr.