May 9, 2002 – The Public Services Commission decided Thursday, after a special meeting on an unrelated matter, to send two or three of its members to Japan to investigate and tour the Thermoselect gasification facility there.
Last Friday, PSC hearing examiner Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine recommended that the PSC qualify Caribe Waste Technologies Inc. as a "small production facility for each of the three facilities for which CWT has submitted an application. CWT proposes to use the Thermoselect gasification process in its proposal to develop a plant or plants to process all of the territory's solid waste matter.
The commission has not yet acted on Ballantine's recommendation.
Desmond Maynard, PSC chair, said touring the facility in Japan would "round out the members' knowledge by getting a close-up look at the operation." He suggested making the trip after the end of May. He said the PSC would make a decision on the CWT certification after the trip.
The Thermoselect facility is located at Kawasaki Steel in Chiba, Japan, near Tokyo.
CWT was selected by the Turnbull administration last year to build and operate a plant on St. Croix that would replace the federally condemned Anguilla and Bovini landfills, where the Virgin Islands' solid waste now ends up. Selling the power to WAPA for a projected $11 million to $12 million annually over a 30-year period was an essential element of the proposal. Should the commission decide in CWT's favor, it could direct WAPA to buy power from the company — something the utility does not want to do.
WAPA's then-executive director, Joseph R. Thomas Jr., said last year that the utility can supply the territory's power needs on its own and that CWT's proposed technology has not been commercially proven. The WAPA board adopted this stance in November, prompting CWT to take its case to the PSC. WAPA based its decision on reports from a number of expert analyses of the Thermoselect plants in Karlsruhe, Germany, and Japan.
Expert opinions differ on whether the Thermoselect technology is proven.
James W. Galambas, executive engineer of Energy & Environment Engineering of Englewood, Colorado, told the WAPA board last September that neither that technology nor the technology of the Jenbacher engine — which in a modified form CWT plans to use — are commercially proven for processing solid waste into a gas and generating electricity.
Thomas Morton, a mechanical engineer and vice president of Montenay Power Corp., which together with its parent company operates more than 100 waste-to-energy facilities throughout the world, says Montenay considers Thermoselect a proven technology. He said in a statement provided to Ballentine that his company did a thorough evaluation of the technology and that its engineers participated in the start-up and operation of the Karlsruhe facility.
Maynard said the PSC will finalize the travel plans next week. He emphasized that the commission, and not CWT, will pay for the travel costs.
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