During its monthly meeting Thursday, the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority Governing Board approved contract amendments that pave the way for tree trimming services on all three islands. The service is required to prevent vegetation overgrowth from impacting electrical circuits.
When tree limbs or broken branches impact the electrical system, specifically primary service lines, electrical faults will trip distribution feeders, which results in service interruptions to customers.
The board voted to add the tree-trimming service to the scope of existing contracts with companies now installing composite utility poles across the territory. The contract amendments were approved with BBC Electrical Services for work on St. John and with Haugland Energy for tree trimming on St. Thomas and St. Croix. The composite poles are being installed in areas where electrical circuits will not be underground.
Board members also approved a contract with Electric Cities of Georgia for an in-house lineman training and development program for a two-year period, through June 30, 2023. The two-year contract totals $516,500, of which $215,000 will be funded by a federal grant.
The training program with ECG began in 2019 but was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic during which time the existing contract expired. Various training deliverables remain outstanding and further training is required to secure the necessary lineman certifications.
Among the benefits to be realized by employees who complete the training are: increased upward mobility and promotion opportunities, increased workplace safety, national certification hotline work as well as development and improvement of situational awareness. WAPA will realize cost savings as the training will be held in the Virgin Islands.
A resolution to allow the electric and water systems to be operated at Fiscal Year 2021 budget levels until the FY 2022 budgets are approved by the governing board was also ratified. The fiscal year runs from June 1 to July 31.
A three-year contract with Sustainable Capital Advisors LLC to provide consulting services to the authority in the overall development of capital planning, budgeting and potential financing plans, alternatives and the sale of securities was tabled for possible future consideration.
Interim Executive Director Noel Hodge updated board members on some preliminary findings into the cause of the extended district-wide service interruption that began on the night of June 17 and lasted through the morning hours of June 18. Hodge reported that an electrical fault on Feeder 7E worked its way back to the power plant, causing Unit 23 to trip offline. The loss of Unit 23 caused the three other units to fall offline, resulting in the district-wide outage.
Hodge told board members a review of data continues to determine the circumstances leading up to the inability of WAPA’s largest generator to sustain the fault and remain online. He said once the power plant lost all generation capacity, personnel were faced with a perfect storm of sorts when “several of our other ordinarily available units were simply not available to us last Thursday night and Friday morning.”
Units 14 and 15 were sidelined by various mechanical issues from days prior and were being worked on. A leased unit, Unit 27, also failed to “black start” — meaning there must be some other generation already dispatching power to the grid for that unit to be brought online.
“Personnel spent hours working on Unit 14, one of two units at the Harley Power Plant, which can not only black start but can synchronize to a dead buss,” Hodge explained.
Hodge said that just as important as understanding the fault on Feeder 7E, WAPA wants to fully understand why Unit 23 failed once the electrical fault worked its way to the plant. “We are also looking at some short-term measures to provide us more flexibility to recover the power plant more efficiently once we have lost all generation and station service.”
In executive session, board members discussed legal matters; no votes were taken.
Board members in attendance included Chairman Anthony D. Thomas, Vice Chairman Jed JohnHope, Director Kyle Fleming, Cheryl Boynes Jackson and Hubert Turnbull. Secretary Juanita Young, Director Joel Lee and Elizabeth Armstrong were excused.