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Friday, September 18, 2020
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Proposed Geothermal Energy Plant Gets Chilly PSC Reception

Michael J. Parrella, CEO of GTherm, Inc., addresses the PSC board.It was after midnight Thursday when the Public Services Commission decided to delay its decision regarding an application from WINDOTS Power to construct a geothermal energy plant on property owned by the Elskoe family in the Havensight area.
A relatively recent development in the green revolution, geothermal energy (from the Greek roots geo, meaning earth, and thermos, meaning heat) is generated by converting hot water or steam from deep beneath the Earth’s surface in order to turn generator turbines and make electricity.
WINDOTS Development, a company that also owns the Paradise Point Tramway, formed WINDOTS Power, a geothermal company that hopes to use a patented geothermal method to provide WAPA with 15 megawatts of power initially, followed by another 15 megawatts in the future.
WINDOTS application to the PSC essentially looked to secure three things: 1) Qualifying Facility status, which grants them status to sell power to WAPA ; 2) the right to interconnect with WAPA’s power grid in order to deliver the power; and 3) a power-purchase agreement, which would open the door for discussions and negotiations with WAPA to sell power.
PSC board members and approximately 40 members of the community heard testimony from Dean Luke, chairman of WINDOTS Development; along with Ronald E. Suess, president and CEO of Global GeoDyne; and Michael J. Parrella, the CEO of GTherm, Inc.
Parrella, creator of a specific geothermal process that uses only hot rock to create energy, called the project a “prototype” rather than an “experimental” project, as suggested by PSC board members.
“Our objective is to make the USVI independent from foreign oil sources,” said Parrella. “All it needs is hot rock to produce energy. We can build these plants faster than you can build a substation and as soon as we get the first plant working, you have become completely independent of foreign oil.” Claiming that the project is completely “green,” Parrella emphasized that it would allow the territory to be a leader in the energy revolution.
According to Luke, passage of the applications would allow WINDOTS to provide a renewable source of energy with no harmful emissions, create 150 to 200 construction jobs, and provide a fixed rate of power for the next 20 years, beginning operation in 3 months.
Luke implied to board members that he had come to an agreement with WAPA during a meeting with WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr.
Hodge, who spoke to the board via speakerphone, expressing anger at Luke’s implication that an agreement had been made. “I do not have the authority to enter into an agreement with anyone. That is entirely up to the board,” said Hodge. “There is no agreement in principal and there never has been. We had a business discussion. I expressed to you that there was no way WAPA could even accept 30 megawatts on our system.”
Dorothy Elskoe, matriarch of the Elskoe family, which owns WINDOTS Development, sat patiently in the audience for hours along with other family members and WINDOTS employees, finally leaving just before midnight prior to the PSC decision.
Although Luke and Parrella told the board that the interconnection and power-purchase agreements were immediately necessary in order for WINDOTS to receive project financing, PSC board members voted to exercise their 90-day option to consider WINDOTS’ application. As the application was filed 30 days ago, WINDOTS will again be on the PSC meeting agenda sometime in the next 60 days.

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