WAPA Signs Contract for Four New Generators, Battery Storage System at Harley Plant

WAPA signs contract with Wartsila for new storage battery and generators for the Randolph Harley Power Plant. (Submitted photo)

The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority has entered into a $75 million contract with Wartsila for the engineering, procurement and construction of four new generators and a battery storage system for the Randolph Harley Power Plant.

The generating units, which will provide an additional 36 megawatts of capacity, and the nine-megawatt energy storage system are slated to be fully operational in the first part of 2022.

“Utilizing 100 percent federal monies provided by HUD, WAPA booked the order for the new generators and battery system in June,” said Executive Director Lawrence Kupfer. The new units will be capable of burning both propane and light fuel oil.

“Not only do these new units build on the 21 megawatts of Wartsila propane-fired units now in daily use at the Harley Power Plant, this acquisition is the first engine/hybrid power plant undertaking for our partners at Wartsila, and the first installation of the company’s LG engines which are capable of burning the two fuel types,” he said.

Once these units are online, the power plant will operate more efficiently and reliably on 100 percent propane, a less costly fuel source. The battery storage system, which is slated to provide nine megawatts of electricity for up to two hours, will be used for plant stabilization should an interruption occur and avoids bringing additional generating units online to satisfy electrical demand.

“We are confident that the seven Wartsila generators will contribute to improved system reliability while providing additional fuel and operational flexibility that increases fuel efficiency and lowers overall operating costs. Lower operating costs and a more efficient operation will lead to rate reductions for our customers,” Kupfer said.

The new units will also allow WAPA to end its generator lease and commence the decommissioning of older, less reliable units which are only fueled by more expensive oil sources. Once the Harley Power Plant is operating more efficiently with the Wartsila units dispatched and all fully on LPG fuel, WAPA anticipates that electric rates can be lowered by 4 cents per kilowatt-hour, a savings for our customers.

Also, having more than 57 megawatts of efficient and reliable generation capacity bodes well for customers in the St. Thomas-St. John District and for the future growth of the island district.

WAPA is grateful to HUD Secretary Ben Carson and V.I. Housing Finance Authority Executive Darryl Griffith who have worked closely with it to ensure the project, once approved by FEMA, would be eligible for 100 percent HUD funding. HUD has also authorized WAPA to use its share of grant funding to satisfy local match requirements on other federal mitigation projects that are in the works, Kupfer said.

In addition to securing additional generation capacity for both power plants, WAPA is tapping federal funds for approved mitigation projects that include undergrounding transmission and distribution electrical feeders, installing more resilient composite poles and providing standby generators on St. John.

Once completed, these projects will provide for more timely and efficient restoration of the electrical system following windstorm events, Kupfer said.