Aug. 15, 2008 — Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone unveiled an energy savings proposal on Friday that he claimed could save the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) up to an estimated $17 million annually in fuel bills.
Malone's unveiling comes on the heels of this week's announcement by WAPA that it is exhausting its reserves and is drawing down the remaining $2 million in funds from its line of credit to purchase fuel.
Fresh from a trip on Tuesday to Pensacola, Fla., where Malone said he saw the new technology in action, he called a news conference Friday at the Board of Education on St. Thomas to explain his proposal and to introduce Gemini Environmental Corporation.
Gemini is the pioneer of the so-called magnetic molecular arrangement device, or MMAD. The company's chief executive officer, Christopher Walton, joined Malone on Friday and said the MMAD is not an alternative form of energy, but is used to increase energy efficiency.
"Our energy saving systems enable fossil fuels to release more heat when they're combusted," Walton explained. "You can drive electricity generation with less fuel. When you use less fuel several things happen: it's cheaper to buy fuel, your emissions go down and more complete combustion acts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
The MMAD weighs approximately 350 pounds, is just over 50 inches long, and could be probably be adapted to WAPA's power generators within two hours, to begin immediate cost savings, according to Walton. He added, however, that he has yet to view a WAPA generator.
Malone said the system entails " no risk to WAPA." Gemini's Walton said his company charges nothing for the technology, but typically shares 50 percent of the realized savings.
Repeated efforts to reach a WAPA spokesperson Friday were fruitless. But Malone, who chairs the Legislature's Government Operations and Consumer Protection Committee, which has jurisdiction over WAPA, claims both the governor and WAPA Director Hugo Hodge Jr. are interested in the technology.
Sen. Liston Davis, a member of the committee who also attended the news conference, said he spoke at length with Hodge about this system. "He felt it was worthwhile to look at it, test it and see," Davis said.
Walton said he has yet to meet with Hodge. "I anticipate speaking with Mr. Hodge late next week, by phone."
Walton said he's prepared to offer WAPA a free test-drive of the MMAD system on one generator before signing any contract with the company. If savings are realized, Gemini would commence negotiations with WAPA to service all generators.
While Gemini estimates MMAD could shave an estimated $10 to $12 million off WAPA's fuel bill, Malone has also been in discussion with another company, whose product he said could be used in tandem with Gemini's. Energy International in association with NU Energy Smart LLC is proposing the privately financed construction of a "plasma gasification" plant that would enhance WAPA's electric production, resulting in an estimated $5.2 million in savings annually.
Malone said there would be no costs to WAPA up front for this technology either. Energy International issued a statement stating, the proposed plant would be " privately financed, imposing no financial burden on WAPA "
Exactly what savings the consumer would reap from these two technologies is unclear. Malone said WAPA is currently paying an estimated $230 million a year for fossil fuel. If half of the estimated $17 million savings were to go into the pockets of Gemini and Energy International, consumers would not see a dramatic reduction in their bills. However, Malone stressed that some savings, even if it's no additional price increase, is needed.
"Right now, (WAPA's) not saving anything, and they have nothing to reinvest to provide fuel at a cheaper cost," Malone said. "So it's the best thing in the short term. This is the first phase, I feel, of WAPA's recovery."
Gemini has never sold MMAD to a public power plant before. Instead, it has been used exclusively in private industry. In addition, it has yet to use the product with liquid fossil fuels, as WAPA uses, but has only been used in conjunction with natural gas generators. Nevertheless, Walton said he's confident his product can adapt to the demands of WAPA generators.
"We will build, we will deliver, we will install at no cost," Walton said. "All we ask is when there are verified savings that you share those savings with us. We look at it as a no-risk proposition."
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