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WAPA Signs Solar Energy Contracts

Local government and energy company officials sign documents establishing a partnership for WAPA to begin harnessing solar energy.Power purchase agreements signed Monday morning at Government House sealed a two-decade partnership with Toshiba International Corp., Lanco Virgin Islands I and Sun Edison LLC for a combined 18 megawatts of solar energy to St. Thomas and St. Croix.

About 50 people, most of them government officials and representatives from solar energy companies, attended the contract signing, snapping pictures and applauding alternative energy options.

“The 18 megawatts of solar power represents approximately 14 to 15 percent of the territory’s peak load demand and will help to reduce customer rates once fully installed,” said Water and Power Authority Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr.

According to Mark Lonkevych, Bill Morrow and Frances Yuhas, representatives from Toshiba, Lanco and Sun Edison respectively, the total project will about $65 million, all of that resting on the three companies. Rates fluctuate as they are site specific depending on where the units are installed.

A written statement from WAPA said the three companies were “selected because of their experience and site control abilities, and they possess the financial capability and stability to develop such projects.”

The contract with Sun Edison will expire in 25 years, and in 20 years for the other two companies. Options for extensions are available.

The statement from WAPA noted that there will be three units on St. Thomas, located “mostly mid-island, focusing on those areas where sun energy will be available throughout the day.”

St. Croix will also have three units “placed in areas throughout the island to maximize on sun availability and limit the impact of cloud cover.”

The project will officially begin once the Public Service Commission approves rates, said Hodge.

Construction is scheduled to start during the first quarter of 2013 and end on both St. Thomas and St. Croix in December 2013. According to the timeline, WAPA anticipates to begin generating approximately 15 percent of its peak load demand with solar energy by January 2014.

Hodge also noted that solar energy will help the territory keep rates steady throughout the next two decades as fossil fuel prices continue to climb. The 18 megawatts of solar energy will be divided almost evenly between the two islands with both using roughly nine megawatts.

Gov. John deJongh Jr. said that the project “comes from a fundamental understanding of cost, but more importantly, the need to diversify.”

He reminded those present of the territory’s goal to reduce use of fossil fuels 60 percent by 2025.

Hodge added that the project will also benefit the territory as it boosts the economy and creates jobs by bringing money to the Virgin Islands.

As of now, there are no plans to extend the project to St. John and Water Island.

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