Main Street Power Company Inc. and the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on May 13 for a 5-MW solar project to be built on the island of St. Thomas. The solar project, engineered and built by System 3 Inc., will be the largest in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The 5-MW array will be completed by late 2014, and is expected to generate approximately 7.9 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. The project was financed by Boulder, Colorado-based Main Street Power, in partnership with MS Solar Solutions Corp. (MSSS), an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Morgan Stanley.
Since the HOVENSA oil refinery closed in 2012, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ sole utility (WAPA) has utilized expensive, polluting diesel generators for electricity. A 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) between Main Street Power and WAPA is part of the utility’s plan to deploy solar, propane, and wind power to reduce ratepayer costs by up to 30 percent.
WAPA Executive Director Hugo V. Hodge Jr. explained, “The authority’s solar plan was executed ‘strategically,’ from the development of the contract to figuring out where the panels will eventually be placed. WAPA’s main strategy was ‘flexibility,’ so that no matter what happened, the project would not be delayed.”
Woody Rubin, SVP & General Counsel at Main Street Power, said “We’re excited to celebrate the official start of what we expect will be a long and productive partnership with WAPA to deliver clean and affordable energy to the Virgin Islands communities.” He added, “It’s our mission to partner with utilities and communities to enable their use of renewable energy.”
— Solar Builder magazine