The U.S. Virgin Islands are paradise, but paradise comes with a price- extremely high energy costs.
The university signed a 20-year power purchase agreement for construction of three megawatts of solar power to be owned and operated by Veriown Energy, a subsidiary of New Generation Power. That agreement will help reduce costs at the university and could be a model for other projects on the islands, said Steve Johanns, co-founder, president and CEO of Veriown. The average electricity consumer in the Virgin Islands pays more than 50 cents per kilowatt hour, which, according to a press release, is about four times more than consumers on the U.S. mainland.
The agreement calls for construction of three megawatts of solar power for the university’s two campuses and will assist in reducing the institution’s dependence on fossil fuel by 50 percent by 2015, the release said. The photovoltaic system will use about 4.2 acres on the St. Thomas campus and 3.9 acres on the campus on St. Croix. The system should produce 4.5 million kilowatt-hours annually, the release said. The project should be operational by the end of the year, Johanns said. There are already talks about expanding the capabilities in the future, including adding storage, he said.
“This is a historic and transformative development for the University and the Virgin Islands,” said UVI President David Hall in a press release. “Once this project is completed, UVI will have blazed a trail that many universities throughout the world are destined to follow. Energy consumption and costs are crippling challenges facing the Virgin Islands and the broader Caribbean; and this initiative creates a pathway for addressing the problems.”
Veriown often works with universities, Johanns said. Universities are ideal for micro-grid levels because they resemble small towns or cities- they have residential areas, commercial areas and industrial settings. Once a model is created it can be expanded to a larger scale. Other Caribbean islands have expressed interest for similar projects to meet the energy demand and reduce costs.
“The U.S. Virgin Islands is an extreme case of how run-away energy costs tied to fossil fuels can cripple economies.” said Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria, President and Chairman of New Generation Power and Chairman of Veriown Energy in a press release. “Distributed solar and other distributed energy solutions delivered by Veriown Energy can change the future of the U.S. Virgin Island economy and become a model for other islands that struggle with similar challenges.”