Company gets $3M grant to build solar energy grid at UVI


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ST. THOMAS - The company that will be working to put into place an effective solar energy microgrid at the University of Virgin Islands received a $3 million grant this week that will go towards that work.

Veriown Energy, which will be operating UVI's distributive power station, announced Tuesday that it received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture High Energy Cost Grant Program.

The microgrids, one on each campus, will produce about 3 megawatts of power altogether, which would produce about half of the energy needed for the campuses, according to previous statements from the school's energy manager, Courtney Mayes.

Once live, the systems will save the school about $900,000 to $1 million annually, according to UVI President David Hall.

Veriown representatives could not be reached Wednesday to specify what costs of the solar power microgrid project the grant would cover, and it is unclear what costs are left to be covered.

UVI's solar power microgrid on the university's campus was supposed to be completed before the end of last year, but it still is not finished.

"It's a project under way," said Gary Metz, a spokesman for the university. Metz said he could not explain further why the project had not yet concluded, nor how far along it is.

"Because of this grant, the University of the Virgin Islands, with the tremendous assistance of Veriown Energy and Illinois Institute of Technology, will be in a position to become energy independent in an environment where the cost of energy is extremely high," Hall said.

The microgrid will fuel the power purchase agreement that the university signed with Illinois-based New Generation Power in July 2013. Next Generation Power is the parent company of Veriown Energy.

Last month, New Generation Power donated $30 million to UVI to create an accredited medical school in the territory.

The federal program distributed $11 million in grants to entities delving into energy distribution in rural communities with excessively high average home energy rates.

In the Virgin Islands, the average electricity consumer pays more than 50 cents per kilowatt-hour - four times more than the average consumer in the states, according to a statement UVI issued Tuesday.

The grant can go toward the improvement of or the foundation of renewable energy projects, according to the USDA's website.

Veriown acquired the grant with the help of Illinois Institute of Technology, which helped to develop the energy company's plan, according to UVI.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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