St. Thomas Solar Farm Being Rebuilt Bigger Than Before

Much of WAPA’s solar farm in Estate Donoe was destroyed by last year’s hurricanes
Much of the solar farm in Estate Donoe, St. Thomas was destroyed by last year’s hurricanes

The V.I. Water and Power Authority board approved an agreement with BMR USVI Renewables, LLC to redevelop the Donoe solar farm on St. Thomas. Before Hurricane Irma, the solar farm had a capacity of 4.188 megawatts, and it will be redeveloped with a capacity of 5.025 megawatts.

BMR Renewables, which also owns the solar farm in Spanish Town, St. Croix, will purchase the Donoe facilities from Western Solar Parent, LLC. The amended and restated power purchase agreement that will be entered into between WAPA and BMR USVI Renewables, LLC has a term of 25 years, with an option to extend for an additional five-year period.

“The new agreement includes a pricing structure that better protects our customers as it more closely follows the Authority’s avoided cost over time,” WAPA Executive Director Lawrence J. Kupfer said in a statement. The previous agreement was at a fixed and escalating price over the term of the agreement. Under this agreement, pricing will be fixed for the first six years, and thereafter, will be tied to the Authority’s LEAC with a fixed floor and cap.

Kupfer further explained that, “The provisions of this agreement stipulate that WAPA will never pay more than 20 cents per kilowatt hour for the solar energy captured at Donoe, and the floor is set at 11.5 cents. Otherwise, after year six, the rate will be tied to LEAC,” Kupfer added, “This is a major boost to the long term plans of the Authority to add more renewables to the electric grid. The solar energy captured at Donoe will be interconnected to the grid, and benefit all customers in the district. WAPA has an existing power distribution center at the Donoe solar site.”

In other action, the governing board approved:

— A time extension to a contract with ABB, Inc. to replace a switchgear at the East End substation which was damaged in the 2017 hurricanes. The extension is required to allow for civil work at the substation site to be completed. The new contract end date is July 31, 2020.

— An addendum to a purchase order for additional materials and labor needed for the switchgear replacement at two electrical substations on St. Thomas. The additional cost for materials is $110,476.80.

— A change order to an existing contract with Leumas Engineering to cover increased costs of waterline materials, asphalt and backfill material. The contract is associated with ongoing work on the Christiansted Waterline Rehabilitation Phase 2 project. Once completed, the project will significantly improve water quality in the Christiansted area of St. Croix while also reducing line loss.

– WAPA’s Fiscal Year 2020 Electric System Capital Budget totaling $4.5 million dollars.

The members also voted against a time extension to a contract with Sulzer Turbo Services, requesting that it be brought back to the board with a more detailed justification.

Board members in attendance included Chairman Anthony D. Thomas, Vice Chairman Noel Loftus, Secretary Juanita Young, Directors Joel Lee and Kyle Fleming, Cheryl Boynes Jackson, Elizabeth Armstrong, and Hubert Turnbull.

Estate Donoe Solar Farm after the 2017 hurricanes. (Bill Kossler photo)