Progressive steps towards increased renewable energy adoption in the territory occurred this week when the V.I. Public Services Commission (PSC) approved two solar power companies, Haugland VI and Leeward Energy, as qualified facilities (QF). Leeward Energy has developed over 20,000 MW of solar power and currently has 2,500 MW in operation; Haugland VI manages several local development projects, in addition to performing electrical, utility and civil work.
The recent QF designation is part of a multi-step process that will allow the energy companies to negotiate and enter into a power-purchase agreement with the authority. Under such an agreement, the selected company will maintain ownership and operation of the solar facility. Leeward Energy is in negotiations with the authority to sell power at a fixed rate to the VI Water and Power Authority (WAPA) Haugland VI has not submitted a proposal to WAPA. One of the many benefits of a power-purchase agreement is it funnels renewable energy investment into the Virgin Islands, without WAPA having to shoulder the capital needed for the build-out and operations.
Seven Seas Water has a similar contract with the authority where it owns and operates desalination plants on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Approval this week from the PSC will help further Governor Albert Bryan’s initiative to transition St. Croix to 100% solar energy, and aid in the long-term Vision 2040 economic strategy for the USVI. Prioritization of solar and battery storage will be critical to lowering reliance on expensive and volatile fossil-fuel generation and will help insulate customers from spikes in commodity prices.
While WAPA intends to roll out renewables throughout the USVI, deployment in St. Croix is particularly ideal given the larger and flatter land mass available. Irrespective of solar farm location, however, a territory-wide rate structure ensures all customers will benefit equally from renewable generation, regardless of location.
“This is a step in the right direction towards diversifying the territory’s energy sources,” said CEO Andrew Smith of the VI Water and Power Authority. “Having the community’s backing on creating a competitive environment for investors is crucial to the Authority’s and territory’s success in reaching its renewable energy goals,” added CEO Smith.
While the WAPA continues taking proactive steps toward optimizing operational performance, a diverse energy mix with a focus on efficiency and resiliency will be paramount to revamping the territory’s existing energy landscape.