The WAPA governing board has given the green light to what could potentially be the first large-scale wind development in the territory.
At Thursday’s regular board meeting on St. Croix, board members voted 7-0 to authorize Executive Director Julio Rhymer Sr. to negotiate the terms of an agreement with Advance Power LLC to develop, finance, design, construct, test, operate and maintain a 10- megawatt wind energy farm on St. Thomas.
An agreement – if approved by the board – would lay the foundation for a potential wind farm capable of generating about a sixth of the total peak power consumption on St. Thomas.
Advance Power’s wind plan has held a certification as a Qualified Facility – or QF – from the V.I. Public Services Commission for the last three years, and received an extension on that certification on Nov. 10. The project would consist of onshore wind turbines, according to the document providing the extension from the PSC.
Nor is Advance Power the sole provider seeking to harness prevailing winds on St. Thomas’ South Side in order to keep the lights on. Two other companies – Ocean Offshore LLC and Bovoni Wind Farm LLC – have obtained the designation, which allows them to be treated differently in how their rate is calculated.
The three wind farm projects bid on a WAPA Request for Proposal, said utility spokesman Jean Greaux Jr.
“There were three qualified facilities approved by the PSC for a wind power purchase agreement,” Greaux said on Friday. “The wind QF’s together total 50 megawatts, which was not feasible. All QF’s that were approved for wind were part of the RFP. Advance was selected through the RFP process.”
The estimated value of the RFP is for what utilities call an avoidance cost, Greaux said. That amount is roughly the amount the utility would spend on fossil fuel costs to generate the same amount of power over the length of the 18-year term for the agreement.
Greaux estimated that amount at about $50 million after Thursday’s vote.
A Qualified Facility is a federal designation under the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act of 1978. The designation may only be obtained by either small capacity renewable electric resources —solar, wind or other projects generating less than 80 megawatts – and small cogeneration projects that use heat from an existing generation source.
Bovoni – which currently houses a landfill, water treatment facility and other industry – has long been on the radar for wind generation.
A report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory identified the site for wind generation as early as 2012. The report estimates the total capacity of a Bovoni wind farm is between 7,000 megawatt hours and 29,000 megawatt hours per year.
“The wide range of potential energy generation represented by these estimates is a function of the total installed plant size, which is in turn limited by the number of turbines that can be placed on Bovoni point and varying levels of productivity associated with specific turbine designs,” the executive summary of the report reads in part.
The report assumes a 295-foot height for as many as six wind turbines along the Bovoni peninsula. Up to five of the wind turbines would be visible from the area immediately near the peninsula. The cost of generation also would be much lower than the cost of oil or liquid petroleum gas-based generation, according to the report.
One of the larger commercial institutions to be affected by the project would be the Bolongo Bay Beach Resort. Managing director Richard Doumeng, a member of the family that owns the resort, said the possibility of wind turbines isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, especially given the proximity to another widely smelled Bovoni landmark.
“I’m closer to the landfill than I would be to the windmill,” he said. “Give me a windmill more than a landfill.”
The laboratory’s report also identifies two other concerns: sounds made by the wind turbines and shadow flicker – roughly the shadows off the turbine blades passing over nearby houses.
Doumeng said he’s not worried about the sound.
“If you look at them, they have lots of small systems, commercial operations,” he said. “They all tout the noise reduction figures.”
Other systems also contain hydraulics that could allow the turbines to be lowered and secured in the event of an approaching hurricane, Doumeng said.
“It doesn’t instantly worry me,” he said.
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