WAPA breaks ground on St. Croix solar project
Published: August 17, 2013
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ST. CROIX - The V.I. Water and Power Authority broke sun-soaked ceremonial ground on its Spanish Town Estate Solar Project on Friday morning, in another step toward diversifying WAPA's energy-generating capacity.
"We will continue to build a system that's diverse," said WAPA executive director Hugo Hodge Jr.
Solar energy converts sunlight into electricity. This project will use photovoltaic panels to create voltage or electric current upon exposure to sunlight.
Officials said they expect the Spanish Town Solar Project to come online during the second quarter of 2014.
Mark Lonkevych, senior vice president and general manager at Toshiba International, said that the project will use about 20,000 solar panels.
WAPA signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with Toshiba International Corp. in June 2012 for the integration of about 4 megawatts of solar energy into St. Croix's electrical grid, according to a statement WAPA issued.
After that 20 years, WAPA can either purchase the solar system or renegotiate the purchase agreement, according to the statement.
WAPA also has signed power purchase agreements with Sun Edison for 25 years, and Lanco Virgin Islands for 20 years, for a total of 18 megawatts of solar energy territorywide.
At Friday's groundbreaking, Hodge, Lonkevych and WAPA board chairman Gerald Groner spoke, while WAPA project manager Orville James was master of ceremonies. The Superior Court Rising Stars Steel Orchestra entertained.
Although it was raining at one point as the ceremony was about to begin, the sun that the power plant will harness was soon beaming down on the site.
Groner spoke of the quietness of the surrounding Profit neighborhood - and told the audience that would not change.
"You will not hear this facility," he said. "The sun works quietly."
He spoke of other steps WAPA is taking to diversify its power generation, in an attempt to reduce reliance on fuel oil and bring energy costs down.
The savings when these projects come online will be shared by all ratepayers, he said.
Once it is online, the Spanish Town Solar Project will reduce the carbon footprint of the island the equivalent of removing 900 cars from the island, or planting 1080 acres of forest, Lonkevych said.
According to WAPA, Toshiba will engineer, procure and construct the solar array power plant and connect the facility directly to the new WAPA Midland Substation that currently is under construction.
- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.