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HomeCommentaryOpen Forum: WAPA Silent on Wartsila Project Delays

Open Forum: WAPA Silent on Wartsila Project Delays

On April 11, 2024 the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority released a press release stating that there would be rotational outages in the St. Thomas/St. John district due to inclement weather conditions and low fuel inventory. The outages continued through Tuesday on St. Croix, according to the authority.

A press release with prior notice does not lessen the pain and suffering that blackouts pose to the community. The hardship on families, particularly those unable to afford generators, is heavy. Businesses and families already struggling with the high cost of electricity must also be saddled with frequent power failures. Outages kill store revenues and can cause expensive equipment damage.

Back on Nov. 27, 2021, The Daily News reported, “WAPA gets new Wartsila generators but customers must wait for reliable service.” It was reported to be the first acquisition of generators by the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authoritysince the mid 1990’s and would take 15 months to become operational, immediately improving reliability and reducing customers’ utility bills.

WAPA’s Chief Executive Officer Andy Smith and Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. have publicly committed to improving the territory’s energy reliability and affordability through the Wartsila generator project, which was originally scheduled to be operational in early 2023.

Both men have emphasized the infrastructure project’s potential to provide a more reliable and economical power source, underscoring its importance in the strategic plan for the future of the Virgin Islands. The implementation of this $95 million, fully federally funded disaster relief project was heralded as the long awaited solution to WAPA’s notoriously unreliable service.

WAPA and the Bryan administration should issue a press release to update the public on the status of this critical infrastructure project which was, according to a joint press release issued June 28, 2023 by the Office of the Governor and WAPA, slated for final completion in August of 2023.

Sadly, as of April 2024 the four new Wartsila generators continue to sit idle at the St. Thomas Randolph Harley Power Plant since arriving on island in November 2021, while rotating blackouts continue to undermine the quality of life of the community and damage businesses throughout the territory.

Filippo Cassinelli, St. Thomas

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