BVI News

$50M project handed over – Fewer outages expected

While stating that the Phase V Power Development Programme is the ‘the greatest increase in generating capacity’ in the history of the BVI Electricity Corporation (BVIEC), General Manager at the company Leroy Abraham said he cannot promise that there will be no more power outages.

“I will never be so bold to make such a declaration that there will be no more power outages. The reality of the situation is that BVIEC can never guarantee complete freedom from power outages,” said Abraham this morning at a ceremony to rename the Pockwood Pond power plant, and to hand over the completed Phase V Power Development project.

The BVIEC boss explained that, although Phase V has made the electricity company more efficient, there will always be a risk of power outages because the Pockwood Pond-based plant has a relatively heavy load to carry.

“One must be mindful of the fact that, unlike most of our regional counterparts whose electrical grid supplies largely one island, BVIEC is responsible to supply to 10 other islands from this sole facility.”

He also underscored certain challenges that the company faces.

“There are different circumstances daily which pose several challenges to us maintaining a reliable supply such as generating issues, wildlife – believe it not or not birds and snakes, [inaudible] vegetation, trees and shrubs… inclement weather conditions, and human contact,” added Abraham.

However, he promised: “The electricity supply will be much more reliable now that we have sufficient reserve capacity to adequately supply the planned and unplanned maintenance of various equipment, so that at least in the short to medium term BVIEC’s load shedding today because of insufficient generating capacity will be a thing of the past.”

The Phase V Power Development Programme saw the installation of three new power generators at the power plant at Pockwood Pond, which is now known as the Henry Wilfred ‘Freddie’ Smith Power Station.

In the meantime, the facility has been furnished with three new Wartsila generators at a cost of roughly $50 million. Some $35 million of that amount is in the form of a loan from the Social Security Board.

Boasting about the positive impact of installing the generators that have a total capacity of 25.5 megawatts, Chairman of the BVIEC Ron Potter said the generators will bring the Territory’s electrical environment back to normality.

“Without Phase V, we cannot realise the promise of a new hospital, capitalise on the economic benefits of the cruise pier…, produce water from any of our desalination plants, and process waste water at our sewerage plants. Without Phase V, we should not even think about the new airport, ferry port, or hotel development.”

“In fact, without Phase V, the standard of life that we have become accustomed to – and that’s the one before the blackouts I mean – will continue to be challenged. Phase V gets us back to a state of normalcy,” added Potter.

Minister of Communication and Works Mark Vanterpool, in the meantime, noted that, especially over the last few years, the territory was hit with frequent and frustrating power outages. He hopes the improvement works will make a difference.

“Today, we celebrate another major accomplishment of this Government – the completion of a $49 million upgrade to our Power Generation and Supply Network. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have come through a period in the last few years of frequent power outages, mainly caused by equipment failure – old engines that were coming to the end of their life span and could no longer be properly maintained.

“Coupled with that, the existing power plant did not have the capacity to supply enough power, when a generator had to be taken offline for repairs. Then, there was also a situation created by an increasing demand for electricity in the Territory, with the coming on stream of Oil Nut Bay Resort, Tortola Pier Park, the expansion of several businesses, and new home construction,” Vanterpool continued.

“These developments, in the two to three years brought the Territory’s peak load of 34 megawatts, very close to the 39-megawatt load capacity. The frequent power outages were a cause for concern for the Government, and it was a frustrating time for all of us – residents and business owners, some of us suffering damage to equipment, down time, and loss of revenue.”

History

Vanterpool also gave a brief history of the development of the electricity infrastructure in the Territory over the years.

“Back in 1950, electricity was generated by one 20KW generator to 63 customers for six hours a day. Between 1950 and 1970, a generating station was built, and three 60KW units supplied 18 hours of electricity per day to 210 customers. The Long Bush Power Station was expanded to 3 medium speed 1.2MW generators, and a 13.2KV bus system.”

“In 1972, electricity was extended to Virgin Gorda and later to Jost Van Dyke, using submarine links. A Power Station offering 24-hour service was established on Anegada in the 1980’s. On May 23rd, 1979, the Government’s Electricity Department was changed to the British Virgin Islands Electricity Corporation, an autonomous Statutory Body,” Vanterpool further said.

“Between 1970 and 1990, the Corporation added an additional 12 generating sets, and the total number of active consumers jumped from 1,829 in 1970 to 6,347 at the end of 1989.”

“In 1986, land was purchased and construction of the Pockwood Pond Power Station Phase I began in 1990, with two 3 MW generators. Phase II Development, in 1995, involved the installation of two 4.5 MW generators at the Pockwood Pond Power Station. Phase III, in 1999, installed three 6 MW Rolls Royce Units. Phase IV A, in 2005, replaced one Rolls Royce Engine with a 5.5 MW Unit and an additional Unit was installed. Phase IV B in 2006 replaced the remaining two Rolls Royce Engines. During Phases II and III, transmission systems were upgraded.”

Vanterpool then noted the start of Phase V, which was handed over to the government today.

“Groundbreaking for the BVI Electricity Corporation’s Phase V Power Development Programme was held on March 23rd, 2015. Phase V included an expansion to the Pockwood Pond building, the installation of 3 new Wartsila Generators with a total capacity of 24.4 MW, and the installation of a twin 34.5 KV Transmission Cable upgrade between Pockwood Pond and Long Bush, along the route of the Paul P Wattley Drive.”

“In the meantime, in December 2015, temporary plants with 4.5 MW were installed at the Long Bush Power Station to help offset load shedding. With the completion of Phase V, the Territory’s electrical power supply will have a capacity of 57.5 MW, which represents a 47 percent increase, after Units 1, 2 and 11 (sum capacity 5.5 MW) are retired,” added Vanterpool.

Other persons who spoke at the ceremony today included Premier Dr D Orlando Smith, and Edmund Phillips who represents the company that supplied the new power generators – Wartsila Caribbean Inc.

A pleasant ‘surprise’ for Freddie

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