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St. Johnians Can Help Keep their Electricity Flowing

Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) Chief Executive Officer Hugo V. Hodge, Jr. and Karl Knight, Director of the VI Energy Office (VIEO) are always combining their efforts to identify new and innovative ways to reduce the vast multitude of energy issues facing the territory.

So it was no surprise when Hodge sought approval from the WAPA Board for the two to team up and seek a grant worth more than $10 million to create a solar micro grid system on the island of St. John. The project, formally known as the Solar Distributed Generation and Intelligence Grid (DG+IG), will form a partnership between WAPA, VIEO and the Clean Coalition. The Clean Coalition, a company based out of Palo Alto, has as its mission the creation of programs to aid in the development of cost-effective renewable energy solutions.

Under the grant proposal submitted by the VIEO, the plan is to create a demonstration system on the island of St. John which will produce 25 percent of the island’s energy needs from a newly installed solar system. In addition, there will be a storage system associated with this new grid which will help to “smooth out” the quality of the electricity available on the grid.

“By including the storage element in this plan,” Hodge stated during the Board meeting, “Intermittent electrical dips possibly caused by changes in cloud coverage will be avoided. The battery system will help to regulate the quality of the current throughout the system.”

St. Johnians should consider this to be great news since they on occasion suffer from what is known as “brown outs” where significant dips in the quality or voltage of their current has the potential to harm electrical equipment.

Although the WAPA Board approved the grant proposal’s submission to the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA Office, this is only the first hurdle that WAPA must pass on its journey to make this project come to life. “The biggest impediment to the project is land,” continued Hodge. “St. Johnians must also be committed to making this project become a reality.”

The project will require about 45 acres of space to place the solar panels needed to generate the 11.6 megawatts needed for the grid. This space, according to Hodge, could include roof top spaces. WAPA personnel have already identified several large roofs in St. John that are privately owned and with the commitment from the owners, the use of these roofs could help to decrease the amount of “open land” space needed to accommodate the remaining solar panels.

According to Hodge, the project is an example of utilizing renewable energies to the greatest extent. The St. John location is ideal because a micro grid system works off a substation that routinely functions with 8-9 megawatts, which is characteristic of the St. John station. That’s why this project is perfect for an area like St. John.

If the grant is received by WAPA, the initiative will be one of only 5 similar grants in the United States and will serve as a significant micro grid demonstration project for the country.