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St. Thomas Solar Project Put to Work

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2015:02:25 11:33:21ST. THOMAS – With the official dedication of the new solar energy facility in Estate Donoe on Wednesday, the territory now is getting about 8 percent of its peak load from a renewable resource.


The 17,960 solar panels carpet the rolling valley along the Donoe Bypass, soaking up the sun to make power.


The $20 million solar facility will be owned and operated by Main Street Power, the company that built the project, for the next 25 years. The power generated at the facility will be sold to the V.I. Water and Power Authority and will lower ratepayers’ bills by about 3 to 5 percent, according to WAPA.


He project at Donoe is generating about 4.2 megawatts of power, which will be 5 megawatts after it is converted to direct current.


The Toshiba-built solar facility on St. Croix is 4 megawatts and has been operational since October.  WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. said Wednesday that the solar project at Donoe is historic.


“We are one of the first Caribbean islands to say we’re no longer 100 percent dependent on oil,” Hodge said.


Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2015:02:25 11:42:53Woody Rubin, senior vice president and general counsel for Main Street Power, said Wednesday was an incredibly proud moment for the company. The company has built solar facilities across the United States, but the St. Thomas project was the most challenging because of the terrain, he said.


“Today is a good day,” Rubin said.  The Donoe project is the largest solar array in the Caribbean east of Puerto Rico, Rubin said.


Main Street Power Chief Operating Officer Rob Masinter said the state-of-the-art solar facility will provide clean, reliable energy.


“This plant is completely quiet and clean,” he said. “Main Street Power will operate this site for many, many years to come.”  He told The Daily News that extensive work has gone into mitigating soil erosion and stormwater runoff, which was an issue that concerned residents when the project first broke ground.


The facility now has drainage channels leading to water retention ponds. Specialized grasses designed to hold water and soil in place have been planted underneath and in between the panels as well, according to Masinter.


The facility has been going through a testing process, feeding small amounts of power into the grid since mid-January, Masinter said.   “We’ve been ramping it up,” he said.  Hodge said the facility now is feeding all of its power into the main grid.    “This is another great project,” Hodge said. “We look forward to bringing reliable, low-cost energy and water to the ratepayers.”


In June 2012, WAPA signed a power-purchase agreement with three solar companies to build several facilities territorywide.  


One of the contracts that originally was with Lanco Virgin Islands, a subsidiary of Lanco Solar International, was reassigned to Main Street Power Inc., a power-purchase agreement provider based in Boulder, Colo.   Main Street Power, with the financial assistance of Morgan Stanley, has funded, developed and will maintain the solar power plant for the next 25 years.


Each solar panel is a 300-watt module, and they are installed at a “fixed tilt.” The panels are made in China and are built to withstand hurricane force winds.


Hodge said the territory still is developing three additional solar projects to add to the territory’s renewable energy portfolio.


In January, WAPA signed two power purchase agreements and interconnection agreements with St. Croix Solar to buy electricity from two sites that are under development on the island. One is in Granard, on the southeast side of the island, and the other is in White Bay, on the West End. Each facility is to provide 3 megawatts of power.


Another St. Thomas solar project also is in development, but the final details – including the location – have not yet been finalized, Hodge said.





Category/ies:British Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, News, Projects.
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