Grant managers from the U.S. Department of the Interior were on St. Croix March 2 inspecting the Educational Complex planned site for an emergency shelter with a solar system including battery backup. The Educational Complex project is one of two in the territory which could provide electricity immediately after a major storm.
Kyle Fleming, director of the V.I. Energy Office, told the Source last week that if one wanted to find a “silver lining” in the two storms that devastated the territory in 2017, it would be that the territory could now take advantage of new developments in battery storage using storm recovery money.
Advancements in batteries have brought the cost of storage down by 30 percent in the last five years, according to industry sources. Also, the space needed for the batteries has declined dramatically. Fleming said a few years ago the amount of batteries to keep a home energized after a storm would have taken up a whole room. Now the same amount of energy storage would only take up a closet space.
The Virgin Islands are not the only islands to take the opportunity of starting from scratch to incorporate battery storage into its projects. The Bahamas was featured on a recent segment of 60 Minutes. In the segment the prime minister outlined micro-grid projects with battery storage that the Bahamians were initiating after the devastating hit of Hurricane Dorian last year. Rocky Mountain Institute, which is helping with the Bahamian projects, has been in contact with Fleming and helping with the Virgin Island projects.
Another battery storage project in the news is in Australia. Two years after Tesla installed the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery, it is being touted as a success. Bloomberg News reported last month that the project has helped avert blackouts and lower costs as Australian grids struggle to handle surging renewable power generation.
This is the kind of news St. John residents hope to hear after the project planned for the island is finished. This project is for two, four-megawatt, diesel generators (one in Coral Bay and one in Cruz Bay) with battery storage to be built. These will end St. John’s dependency on St. Thomas for electricity.
Fleming said the project is part of the territory’s plan for resiliency. It is being funded with money from FEMA.
The St. Croix project, estimated to cost about $625,000, is being funded through a grant from the Department of the Interior. Fleming said the Educational Complex project could be completed before the end of the year, but the St. John project will be ongoing in 2021. He did not have an estimated cost on that project yet.
The St. John project will not initially have any renewable energy incorporated, but Fleming said there were plans to incorporate renewable energy later.
The batteries at Educational Complex will supply electricity to the shelter to run critical functions such as lighting, refrigeration and air conditioning. It will be able to run 24 hours without recharging. It will power the cafeteria, library and gymnasium.