Company Tells WAPA It Is Taking Rental Generators Back

The Water and Power Authority plant is located in the Subbase area of St. Thomas. (Source photo by Bethaney Lee)

Meanwhile, the generators are not important to WAPA and are not related to a St. Thomas power outage Tuesday, according to the utility.

WAPA had planned to phase the APR generators out as it brought online new Wartsila generators, such as the three it bought in 2018.

This move may accelerate that change.

The APR generators have been part of WAPA’s St. Thomas arsenal since 2013. In a news release Monday, APR officials said “WAPA has not made its contractually required payments for many months,” and that they hope “WAPA will quickly pay their past due invoices and APR Energy can resume power generation.”

In a statement Tuesday, WAPA Executive Director Lawrence J. Kupfer said the move will have no effect on WAPA’s ability to provide continuous electrical service.

“We are in position to utilize our propane-fired generators for the bulk of electrical capacity required, and we have both Units 14 and 23, which are owned by the authority, available to close the gap left by APR’s suspension of service,” Kupfer said.

He described the situation as a dispute over billing and services and not just a matter of nonpayment.

According to Kupfer, while WAPA owes outstanding payments to APR Energy, the company failed to have two of its units, 26 and 27, operate on LPG. The contract for two of the three units requires their primary power source to be LPG, and APR Energy simply failed to make that a reality, Kupfer said. Having no other recourse and needing the units, WAPA accepted the APR-owned generators at a reduced lease rate, the WAPA statement asserts.

Kupfer also said Unit 26 in particular has a history of “operational challenges” which has made it unreliable and that unit has not been used since November.

“Since WAPA stopped using Unit 26, the reliability of the power plant has significantly improved,” Kupfer said.

The lease for the three units cost upwards of $1 million per month. Two of the three units cost WAPA and ratepayers $475,000 per month each – a combined $950,000 – and the third is $400 for each hour it is fired up.

Meanwhile, an abrupt power outage on St. Thomas Tuesday raised concerns whether the outages were connected to the generator dispute. WAPA spokesman Jean Greaux said it is unrelated.

“We lost one of our units which tripped the plant,” Greaux said Tuesday afternoon.