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PSC Clears Way for Wind Turbines at Tutu Park Mall

The ongoing battle between Island Wind Power and the V.I. Water and Power Authority came to a head Thursday when Public Services Commission members voted to move forward with a proposed interconnection order that could get the two wind turbines at Tutu Park Mall up and running by the end of November.
The PSC’s decision allows the two parties to move forward on negotiating the terms of the interconnection. The two 50-kilowatt turbines, which were erected last November, need to be hooked up to WAPA’s power grid in order to work.
But if the two parties are not able to hash out an agreement within 20 days, the PSC can issue a final interconnection order, which can be appealed, PSC attorney Tanisha Bailey-Roka said after Thursday’s meeting on St. Thomas.
Island Wind Power (IWP)– previously known as Earth, Wind and Power — was certified by the PSC last October as a qualifying facility, or small power provider. At the time, IWP representatives said they had already entered into a lease purchase agreement with the mall for the turbines, which would be used to generate just enough electricity for the mall to be able to blend its power sources and reduce its tenants’ electricity bills.
In the meantime an interconnection agreement with WAPA, which would allow the mall to hook up to the utility’s grid in order to generate the power needed for the turbines, had to be hammered out but, so far, nothing has materialized.
Meanwhile, WAPA filed a petition to revoke IWP’s status, saying that they are in fact selling power and should be regulated as a public facility. Issues that arose from the initial negotiations were aired during public hearings held earlier in the summer.
During last month’s PSC meeting, PSC hearing examiner Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine recommended that WAPA’s petition for revocation be denied.
Ballentine repeated her recommendations during Thursday’s meeting, and told PSC members there is nothing tying the two issues together.
"Interconnection — whether they are on the grid or not — is a separate issue," she explained. "And the question of whether or not IWP is regulated by the PSC can be determined separately from the question of interconnection."
Ballentine also said there is nothing in the V.I. Code that would prevent IWP from being both a qualifying facility and public utility subject to regulation by the PSC.
"The core of the discussion has been whether or not the windmills would be leased to Tutu Park or would be set up to sell power to the tenants in the mall," PSC chairman Joseph Boschulte said Tuesday. "We’re at the point again where we have to make a collective decision on whether to move ahead, or bifurcate the issues so that we’re not still at square one."
The PSC unanimously decided to adopt the portion of Ballentine’s recommendation that would allow for the issuance of the proposed interconnection order and gave themselves 120 days to examine and come to a decision on whether IWP is a public utility.
Members present at Thursday’s meeting were Boschulte, Donald "Ducks" Cole, Verne C. David and Elsie V. Thomas-Trotman. Absent from the meeting were Sirri Hamad and M. Thomas Jackson.

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