Plan Submitted to Boost Electrical Grid Reliability

Crucians may appreciate Housing Finance Authority Staff Engineer Odari Thomas saying its plan for St. Croix’s electrical grid means “your lights will go out less often.” But they are going to have to wait a while.

While the plan to replace aging generators at the Richmond power plant has many steps left, Thomas is optimistic. In a video release from HFA last week, he said the first goal of the Authority was reached on time. HFA submitted the plan titled an Electrical Power Systems Enhancement and Improvement Action Plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at the end of December.

The plan outlines how $67 million in federal funding awarded to the territory for energy infrastructure needs will be spent. Odari told the Source he hopes to hear from HUD by mid-March.

WAPA CEO Andrew Smith, in an email, told the Source that WAPA had been active in providing technical information and feedback to the HFA during its application process. He added, “Detailed timing of the plan is unknown at this point because there are necessary applications and additional funding approvals for specific investments that have to be completed.”

Odari said that St. Croix has not received “the level of investment” in new power generation that St. Thomas has.

Engineer Odari Thomas answers questions about the plan on YouTube. (Photo YouTube Screenshot)

A project that shares similarities to the St. Croix plan has been ongoing and will be completed within a couple of months on St. Thomas. On that island, four nine-megawatt Wartsila generators and a nine-megawatt battery storage system will soon be online.

Odari emphasized improved reliability, but residents are also concerned with costs. Since WAPA fuel costs are calculated territory-wide, St. Croix residents will benefit economically from the St. Thomas project. Smith says the St. Thomas project will save WAPA over $3 million a month in fuel costs.

He also noted that both projects included battery storage critical for renewable projects because of the intermittent energy production of renewable energy.

The plan allows $53 million for the Estate Richmond plant while $10 million will be put toward independent, community-oriented local projects that could benefit the electrical grid. The balance of the $67 million will be used for the planning and administration of the grant funds.

HFA Interim Executive Director Dayna Clendinen said in a recent press release that the community innovation component allows local entities – businesses and non-profits, for example – to offer new solutions and apply for the federal funding needed to implement them.

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