After meeting recently with Alpine Energy Group representatives to hear the finer details of its new proposal for a scaled-back solid waste-to-energy system, the V.I. Water and Power Authority, Waste Management Authority and Government House came out strongly in support Thursday.
"This project has represented an alignment of WAPA and WMA combining their efforts to jointly address problems that we have not had solutions for over two decades," de Jongh said in a joint statement with WMA and WAPA officials. "It is a project that requires constant education and awareness by all, but most importantly a commitment to address energy sources and costs, garbage disposal, landfill closures and the long-term operation of the Rolshen airport on St. Croix,” de Jongh said.
Broad outlines of the new plan have been widely known since March 2010, when the V.I. Legislature killed a plan for two trash-to-fuel processing facilities (one per district) and two power plants that would burn cheap petroleum coke alongside refuse-derived-fuel. That plan met stiff opposition both from much of the public and from the St. Croix Environmental Association due to concerns over using petroleum coke.
AEG’s latest proposal envisions construction of waste processing facilities on St. Thomas and St. Croix that will dispose of all the territory’s solid waste, pelletizing it into fuel, and a power generation plant on St. Croix. Hodge and Alpine officials have both testified before the V.I. Legislature the new plant’s technology would be cleaner than WAPA’s current oil-fired generators, for a net reduction in emissions.
Once completed, the facilities will replace the use of 400,000 barrels of oil each year and help meet a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandate to close the Anguilla and Bovoni landfills.
AEG will fund the entire $210 million price tag for the project up front and will get revenue both from disposing of the territory’s solid waste and from selling low-cost electricity to WAPA.
In the joint statement, WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. said WAPA will enter into a power purchase agreement with Alpine that will guarantee electricity at 10 to 15 cents per kilowatt hour – roughly a quarter of the current retail price of 41 cents per kilowatt hour. Because the plant will only provide a fraction of total power generation in the territory, ratepayers will see smaller reductions in their actual bills.
The project will also create 80 new full-time jobs and some 300 jobs at the peak of construction, according to the joint statement.
“Moving in this direction, the Alpine waste-to-energy project is essential to meeting the urgent need of diversification of our dependence on fuel oil,” Hodge said in the statement.
"This project will allow us to address our waste-disposal problems, implement the closing of the Anguilla and Bovoni landfills, and still move forward with realistic initiatives in the area of recycling which can also be an economic driver for our territory," said WMA Executive Director May Adams Cornwall.
Several members of the V.I. Legislature were also at the meeting with AEG officials.
Construction can begin 120 days after the Legislature grants approval for the project’s developers to lease government property, according to the statement.