WAPA Board OKs Generators, Batteries for St. John

The Water and Power Authority board authorized the utility to negotiate a contract with Wartsila for emergency generators and battery storage system on St. John. The board took the action at its Thursday meeting.

The action is a step toward increasing St. John’s ability to keep the power on even after major service interruptions in the St. Thomas – St. John district, according to a statement from the utility.

WAPA Chief Operating Officer Clinton Hedrington Jr. told board members that a procurement process began in March.

“This hazard mitigation project allows us to move away from the days when St. John, without generation capacity, would be solely dependent on St. Thomas for electrical supply currently provided through underwater cables. When this project is completed, we can sooner restore service to our St. John customers,” Hedrington said.

After the 2017 hurricanes, St. John waited for electrical service restoration for some 51 days while circuits from the east end of St. Thomas back to the power plant were reconstructed, according to WAPA. The unanimous board action ratifies the recommendation of an evaluation committee which selected Wartsila, LLC, as the engineering, procurement and construction group to provide and install the emergency generators and battery storage systems for St. John.

In other action, the board authorized Executive Director Lawrence Kupfer to lease space at the old Choice Building in Havensight. WAPA will rent 5,500 square feet of space to relocate its accounting, purchasing and procurement offices from the more costly Port of Sale Mall. The lease agreement bears a cost of $226,220 for a five-year period, inclusive of all maintenance and utilities.

The board also authorized the certification and submission of data requested by Rural Utility Services directly from a U.S. program database to facilitate reporting and other purposes. RUS has provided funding for capital projects in the past and is being considered as a funding source for other projects.

The board approved amendments to a previously approved resolution related to getting $16 million in additional FEMA Community Disaster Loans.

In his monthly report, Kupfer said that in August the average electrical load was roughly 74.3 megawatts, a 14 percent decrease when compared the same period in 2017. Kupfer also told board members that the water production plants operated at 88 percent of capacity in August due to dry weather.

Kupfer also reported on the progress of 18 Line Department personnel who are participating in a training and certification program. The training is being provided by Electric Cities of Georgia, and is funded through a Department of the Interior grant. Classroom and hands-on training is being provided to the sixteen linemen and two supervisors.

Board members present included: Chairwoman Elizabeth Armstrong, Vice-Chairman Hubert Turnbull, Secretary Juanita Young, Gerald Groner, Noel Loftus, Cheryl Boynes Jackson, Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Devin Carrington, Public Works Commissioner Nelson Petty Jr. and Internal Revenue Bureau Director Marvin Pickering.

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