After almost a year’s research, representatives from the Black and Veatch Management Consulting firm told a public forum Monday the territory will spend more on energy over the next 20 years by maintaining the status quo than by replacing outdated oil generating units with liquid propane gas, and only a little less than converting to renewable energy.
Lynn Allen, managing director of Black and Veatch, explained to fewer than two dozen residents at at the University of the Virgin Islands how it formulated the 2016 Integrated Resource Plan. The V.I Water and Power Authority provided information about usage by island, peak times, costs and other data.
The company reviewed available and potential resources, sustainability, economics and aesthetic considerations based on the territory’s goal to generate 30 percent of its power with renewable energy by 2025 and the assumption that liquid propane gas or liquid natural gas will be the only fossil fuel used.
Project manager Gary Wilmes said that over the next 20 years the Virgin Islands would spend slightly less with its current energy system than it would by speeding up conversion to renewable energy. A middle approach would involve decommissioning two high heat units on St. Croix and three on St. Thomas by 2020 and replacing them with LPG or LNG.
On St. Croix, it would amount to shutting down the Richmond station and moving energy production to the South shore.
Currently, the territory is run on fuel oil but will convert within the next few months to LPG.
Black and Veatch studied solar, wind, waste to energy, landfill gas-to-energy, biomass, offshore wind and ocean thermals, according to Boyd Pro, lead renewable energy consultant. He said 156 to 200 megawatts of solar energy could be produced depending on the location, but that wind farms would “likely be very challenging” and channel only 11 to 39 megawatts, at best.
Waste to energy production could be a “good fit” for the Virgin Islands and has the potential to create 10 to 15 megawatts, according to Pro. The other energy conversion methods the company researched are limited, expensive or unproven.
After the presentation, members of the audience had questions about the integrated resource plan. Paul Charkroff, the former executive director of St. Croix Environmental Association, was told that the company will recommend the best economic energy generating option for the territory in the final report.
“Every scenario (in the plan) has lower emissions than what you have currently,” Allen said in response to a question from former senator Diane Capehart.
The presenters agreed with one observer who pointed out the costs for converting to renewable energy sources would be lower after 30 years.
Public forums on the integrated resource plan will be held ay 6 p.m. Tuesday at the ACC meeting room at the UVI campus on St. Thomas and Wednesday at the St. John Legislature conference room.
After the stakeholder meetings, Black and Veatch will analyze and perhaps incorporate public feedback submitted at the forums and electronically. During the week of June 27, forums will be scheduled again on all three islands to discuss the final report.
“We’ll basically let the numbers speak for themselves,” Allen said.