The V.I. Water and Power Authority plans to lease an extra generator for St. Thomas’ Randolph Harley Power Plant for a year and a half so it can take other units offline for maintenance, according to WAPA officials speaking during a short emergency governing board meeting Wednesday.
"As soon as you take one unit offline, you have to task the other units to work overtime, straining them and causing some units to fail," WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge told the board. "We have been in a situation on St. Thomas for quite a bit of time where … tight constraints on generation hampers our efforts to maintain the units."
The board authorized WAPA to lease a 22 megawatt TMZ2500 Mobile Power Plant and Water Treatment System from manufacturer General Electric International for a year and a half. Leasing the generator is contracted to cost $14.6 million, with another $1 million to ship the equipment here and several tens of thousands of dollars in other costs.
This leased generator will allow WAPA to "perform much needed maintenance work on the other units” and to “give the plant more generating flexibility and reliability" while working on the offline units, as well as to reduce outages, according to the written proposal to the board issued by WAPA’s Chief Operating Officer Gregory Rhymer.
Hodge said that last year the PSC authorized a temporary 2.3 cent per kilowatt hour rate increase so WAPA can pay for the lease, but because the temporary new generating unit is more efficient than WAPA’s units, which are both decades-old and badly in need of extensive maintenance, the generator lease should be cost-neutral to customers, as fuel savings counterbalance the upfront costs.
In other action, the board voted to rescind a $629,000 contract with ABB Inc. to replace the control systems for St. Croix turbines nos. 10 and 11.
Hodge said last June when the contract was awarded, the old controls are obsolete and can no longer be repaired or replaced, while the new ones save labor, work better and will be necessary to add alternative sources of power to the grid and to connect to another grid such as Puerto Rico’s. He said ABB returned and asked to change the contract amount because the company had not taken gross receipts taxes into consideration.
Because of the material change to the contract total, WAPA and the board determined the bid was not responsive, and the board voted to have WAPA negotiate a contract with the bidder that came in second.
Voting for both measures were: Chairwoman Juanita Young, Noel Loftus, Gerald Groner, Donald Francois and Commissioner of Licensing and Consumer Affairs Wayne Biggs. Absent were Brenda Benjamin, Cheryl Boynes-Jackson, Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Alicia Barnes and Energy Office Director Karl Knight.