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WAPA Plans to Upgrade Streetlights to LED

One-hundred percent of the territory’s streetlights will be upgraded from high pressure sodium lights to energy efficient LEDs if a contract being negotiated between the V.I. Water and Power Authority and energy company Petra Systems Inc. is approved by the utility’s board.

At WAPA’s regular board meeting on Wednesday, the board unanimously authorized Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. to negotiate with Petra to purchase and install the new LED lights. The contract being considered by WAPA includes a 20-year lease of streetlight-attached solar panels to further boost energy efficiency.

Electricity costs for the territory’s sodium streetlights amounts to $9.1 million annually. According to Hodge, LED lights will reduce that number “easily by 50 percent,” saving the territory up to $104 million over the course of the 20-year contract being negotiated.

Under the terms of the deal offered by Petra, the company would pay the conversion project’s $24,622,680 price tag upfront and WAPA would pay off the lights over the next 10 years. After 10 years, WAPA would also have the option to purchase the solar panels. If they decided not to do so, they would still be under contract to lease the panels for an additional decade.

Not all the terms of Petra’s financing of the project have been decided, but Hodge said he is confident the savings provided by the new lights will be substantial enough to make it a good deal for WAPA.

“We believe that even with the financing part of it, it will be less than what we are paying now,” he said.

Hodge also said improved control of street lighting will be part of the LED upgrade, allowing WAPA to dim streetlights in specific locations at certain hours. He also said the upgrade would do away with “day burners,” sodium lights that stay on and drain energy into daylight hours.

Hodge said once a contract has been negotiated and approved by WAPA’s board the project could be completed territorywide within as little as one year.

“Most of our lights are on wood poles, although there are some areas where we’ve gone underground. In most cases all you have to do is replace the arm and the head,” Hodge said.

He added that energy savings during the conversion would be cumulative rather than coming all at once at the project’s end.

Also unanimously approved by WAPA’s board Wednesday was the authorization of repairs to one of St. Croix’s two steam turbines, unit 11, which was damaged in July by an “over-speed event.”

Since that time, St. Croix’s Richmond Power Plant has not been unable to run on a combined cycle of fuel and steam, greatly reducing efficiency, according to plant superintendent Ira Bowry. St. Croix’s second steam turbine, unit 10, is also down but expected to be running by next week.

Repairing the unit 11 steam turbine will take four months, said Bowry, longer than anyone at WAPA would like. But it would take closer to a year to replace the machine completely since it is out of production, he said. The cost of repairs to the turbine will be $954,676, including a 20 percent contingency cost and will be completed by Majestic Machine and Engineering Inc.

The board also approved a contract to repair unit 11’s generator rotor, damaged in the same over-speed event, for a total of $264,475. TAW Miami Service Center will undertake the repairs, which are estimated to take approximately one month.

On Wednesday the board also voted unanimously to approve:

–                 the extension of an existing contract with Sulzer Turbo Services Inc. for major inspection and repair of unit 23 on St. Thomas until August, 2016;

–                 the authorization for WAPA to enter into contract with Virgin Islands Paving Inc. in the amount of $336,000 for the installation of booster pump stations on St. Croix;

–                 the approval of two additional spud barge rentals with Pro Mar Services Inc. for a total of $16,000 as was required to comply with a regulatory mandate for the mooring of fuel vessels at the Randolph Harley Power Plant;

–                 the award of a contract to United Electric Supply to provide WAPA with two 480-volt load centers for Richmond Plant for a cost not to exceed $800,000;

–                 the extension of the maturity date of a $1,875,000 note with Banco Popular;

–                 and a Rural Utilities Service loan contract and the $1 million letter of credit with Banco Popular needed to meet the requirements of the loan.

The only item on Wednesday’s agenda not to receive unanimous support from WAPA’s board was a contract with GE Energy Parts LLC for the procurement of new hot gas path components for generator unit 23. Commissioner of Public Works Gustav James voted against the motion due to concerns over the replacement parts’ $1.6 million price tag. Commissioner of Licensing and Consumer Affairs Devin Carrington abstained. All other board members present voted yes.

Also present at the meeting were board members Gerald Groner, Noel Loftus, Internal Revenue Bureau Director Marvin Pickering and Juanita Young. Cheryl Boynes-Jackson was absent but voted yes on all items by proxy. Elizabeth Armstrong was excused.

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