WAPA Implements Initial Fixes to Power Plant Reliability on St. Thomas

Randolph E. Harley Power Plant on St. Thomas

The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) has begun the implementation of the first in a series of short-term solutions to address recurring electrical service interruptions across the territory, but primarily in the St. Thomas-St. John District.

Executive Director Lawrence J. Kupfer said Friday that a team of WAPA engineers, technical staff from APR Energy and engineers from the New York Power Authority (NYPA) have made good progress on a path forward to address the root cause issues causing these interruptions, and it has begun to make modifications based on this analysis.

“The technical support team from NYPA, after analyzing available system data, confirmed what WAPA and APR initially found: that problems with the fuel system for units 26 and 27 was one of the root causes of the service interruptions. Based on this earlier finding, the fuel system had undergone modification, but these modifications did not fully address the issues,” Kupfer said.

Based on the additional analysis conducted over the last week, additional changes to the fuel system have been made. “Existing fuel regulating valves were replaced on both units and other adjustments were made to the unit’s fuel system operating parameters. As the analysis continues, the Authority anticipates making additional adjustments to the fuel system over the next two weeks. To facilitate root cause analysis, the authorities also worked together to program existing devices throughout the system to capture high-resolution data during future unplanned outages,” he said.

Additionally, in the coming days, WAPA will look at transmission and distribution relay settings that determine how electrical load is shed from the electric grid to maintain system stability when generation loss occurs. This first set of adjustments will allow all generators to respond more effectively during periods of instability.

“While we work on additional short-term fixes and longer-term solutions, our focus at both power plants continues to be increased service reliability. It must be pointed out, if only as a reminder to our customers, that there are inherent difficulties in implementing solutions on a system that is online producing electrical power to satisfy demand,” Kupfer said, adding, “we again ask for the public for its patience and understanding during this period as we work to improve both reliability and efficiency of service for all of our customers.”

The Authority must also remind its customers that the long-term outlook is much brighter now that the federal government has stepped in through a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant that will add four new and efficient generating units and battery storage at the Harley Power Plant. The monies have already been allocated and this project is currently out to bid. These generators and batteries should be online by the end of 2020. They will help to further improve reliability and reduce rates.