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US Virgin Islands Solar Project at King Airport

(St Thomas) – Soon people flying into St. Thomas will know Virgin Islanders are serious about solar energy.

Funded by $1.9 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the territory’s largest solar-powered electricity system is being installed at King Airport, V.I. Energy Office spokesman Don Buchanan said.

“It’s one of the biggest solar projects in the Caribbean,” Buchanan added.

The Energy Office granted the federal stimulus funds to the V.I. Port Authority for the project, which will result in a photovoltaic panel system that is almost 1,500 feet long and 14 feet wide.

Once it is completed, the system is expected to generate about 450 kilowatts, or about 15 percent, of the airport’s energy, V.I. Port Authority Engineering Director Dale Gregory said. That should make a significant dent in the airport’s power bills, which Gregory said range between $300,000 and $400,000 a month.

The territory’s second-largest solar system, the panels atop the Ron de Lugo Federal Building, will generate 79 kilowatts once it is up and running, Buchanan said. Buchanan added that the third-largest system, at The Nature Conservancy on St. Croix, generates 8 kilowatts – or just about 2 percent of the total power the airport system is expected to produce.

Along with the Energy Office, the V.I. Water and Power Authority is helping the Port Authority with the project, Gregory said.

The system was intended to go on top of the airport’s roof, but Gregory said ongoing problems with the roof caused the Port Authority to change its plans and install the panels in a nearby drainage area.

Gregory said that if all goes as planned, the project should be completed by the end of April.  Buchanan said the finished product will highlight the territory’s work toward weaning itself from oil.  “It’s just showing that the V.I. is going in the right direction,” Buchanan said.

by Karen Hollish: Virgin Islands Daily News



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