Frequent power outages and fluctuations have convinced the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas to switch to full-time diesel generator power from using the V.I. Water and Power Authority’s supply, manager Marc Langevin said. Essentially, the hotel will have its own power plant.
“The main reason is the quality of service,” Langevin said.
At the Ritz, service equals happy customers. Frequent WAPA power interruptions means that air conditioning and other electricity-dependent amenities don’t work when the guests want them, and power fluctuations cost the resort money because they have to replace equipment more frequently than they should.
He said that, for example, on March 13, the hotel had a four-minute outage that cost the hotel $60,000 in lost equipment. And the next morning he had to deal with guests who were annoyed that their air conditioning went off during the night.
When this will happen is up in the air, Langevin said, because the hotel still has to get its permit from the Planning and Natural Resources Department.
The Ritz plans to install a primary generator and a backup generator. Langevin said the hotel will invest about $2 million to $3 million in the generators. He said the operating costs will be a bit lower than what WAPA charges, but the cost wasn’t the primary concern since he wanted reliable power for his guests and to save on repair costs to equipment.
The hotel now spends $3 million a year for energy, which Langevin said was bound to go up as the cost of oil rises.
The generators will be enclosed, he said.
He said he’s looking into “greener” solutions to the problem, such as waste-to-energy, but said that first he needs to stabilize the resort’s power supply.
EPA’s St. Thomas-based coordinator Jim Casey said that the Ritz needs to get a Title 5 permit from the Planning and Natural Resources Department to operate, which means it has to meet federal Clean Air Act requirements that include emission standards.
“It is very stringent,” he said.
Planning spokesman Jamal Nielsen said the application has a discrepancy in the specifications for the generators, which Planning staff is investigating. Once that matter is cleared up and the rest of the application is reviewed, the application will move forward.
St. Thomas resident Judy Grybowski attended a meeting called by the Ritz on Feb. 28 to explain the generator situation to its neighbors. She said that while she has issues with the noisy generators run at the adjacent time shares, she said they are not owned by the Ritz hotel but by the owners of the time shares.
She said she has no issues with the Ritz’s plan to use generators for its power.
“The dollar is talking here. Why would the Ritz spend that kind of money on something that could fail?” she said.
Louanne Schechter, office manager at Cowpet Bay West condominiums said she doesn’t have an issue with the generators because WAPA just can’t provide enough power to the Ritz.