Excellent Letter to...
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Excellent Letter to the Editor in VI Daily News

Posts: 12366
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Topic starter

In case you missed it:

How we can make WAPA cheaper, cleaner

Published: April 30, 2013

We have all been there. You have ignored the problems for some time but there is really no way around it: Black smoke is coming out of the exhaust - you are burning oil - the gearbox is giving you trouble, new brakes would be nice and those old shocks are giving you a rough ride. Your mechanic says he can keep you running for another couple of years for cheap, even mumbles about converting the old guzzler to propane.

In the meantime you are thinking, "new car!" Maybe even one of those hybrids that'll give you 10 times the mileage. It'll certainly improve your standing in the neighborhood, where there are too many jokes about the noise and the smell from your old exhaust.

But can you trust this new technology? Will the bank lend you the money? You will get nothing for the old clunker. You may even have to pay to have it disposed of.

As you may have guessed, this really isn't about your car, but just like your old stink pot, our beloved WAPA is due for some serious considerations.

Who's to blame?

Back in 2002, Gov. Charles Turnbull introduced us to Southern Energy in an attempt to privatize WAPA, a move that was dead on arrival after Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen and Sen. Adelbert "Bert" Bryant put Southern through the wringer.

Since then, no leadership has had the courage to rock the boat.

Before we dig deeper, ask yourself a fundamental question: Why do we have a power utility at all? A central power-generating facility supposed to make it easier and cheaper for everybody to have electricity, but now with WAPA charging 51 cents per kilowatt hour (kw), it is easy to understand why WAPA's customers, big and small, are looking for ways to supply their own electricity.

This has resulted in an estimated 10 percent reduction in WAPA's revenue, and another 5 percent in the making. This is putting the squeeze on the remaining customers who mainly are the ones that least can afford it.

Where's the courage?

As of today, there is no sign that Government House will attempt another "Turnbull" after having wasted millions trying to introduce petroleum coke (Alpine's pet coke project) to the territory, but in the Senate it's another story.

With lots of new blood voted in and a Senate president and vice president who know their stuff, the 30th Legislature is shaping up to become something we haven't seen for a long time: A well-functioning and well-disciplined body of law makers.

After a messy cleanup - needed from all the way back to Sen. David Jones and further exacerbated by Sen. Ronald Russell - Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone together with Sen. Sammuel Sanes and Sen. Craig Barshinger are now poised to tackle the elephant in the room that everyone pretends not to see: WAPA.

In other words, a serious debate about the future of WAPA is about to begin soon.

Any plan involving a relocation of the Richmond plant and/or outsourcing of the power generation part of WAPA will be met with strong skepticism and objection from WAPA, some senators and administration officials. Therefore it is important that those who come forward supporting these drastic changes are ready to be grilled and have facts and figures to support their testimony.

May I politely suggest that the Senate form a close relationship with our Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen? She is knowledgeable about the issue and is a true believer in clean energy, and any decision made down here will eventually need the blessing and financial help of the federal government.

And who knows, maybe we can save on the cost of a consultant or two.

May I also suggest that the Senate early on form a coalition strong enough to overrule any objection to WAPA changes and, if necessary, prepare to make the issue a referendum in the next election.

This is not the time to highlight our limitations.

Instead, we should go for the ideal plan and then work backwards to find ways to implement it.

Wind and solar

Can St. Croix rely on wind and solar for 100 percent of their consumption? The answer is yes - just not all the time. But before we get to that, a few observations on these two alternative sources of power: Our house on the South Shore has run entirely on wind and solar for the last 14 years. During that time we had 2 hurricanes, one of which caused considerable damage to our solar arrays, and we have had ample time to experiment with various blade configurations for our tilt-down wind turbines.

One thing that became very clear is that wind and solar are like apples and oranges.

For example, our 10KW wind turbine is fitted out with extra-long blades to compensate for the high average temperatures in the Virgin Islands. These enable it to generate maximum power in 15 mph wind Compare that with the average output of a 10KW solar array. The result will surprise many of you: On a day with only a moderate breeze ,the turbine easily makes 160 kilowatts while the 10KW solar will produce only 35 or 40 kilowatts.

On a yearly average, wind beats solar two to one.

There is more maintenance needed in wind, power but when it comes to shouldering a hurricane, it is easier to secure one large 1MW turbine compared to 5,000 200 Watt solar panels!

How to do it

So what is the ideal solution for a brand new, built from- scratch generating plant serving St. Croix, using proven technology and with room for expansion? Grid stability is alpha and omega in any grid configuration. WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge is having nervous jitters over the prospect of adding wind to the planned photo voltaic installations, and rightly so. WAPA's outdated Richmond plant cannot handle the additional unstable load unless this problem is taken care of.

The following components are all equally important parts of a solution that will allow St. Croix to be supplied with close to 100 percent alternative clean energy.

To get grid stability we must know supply and demand of power in real time. That is done by giving each customer and each power-providing gadget an IP address. That information will be sent directly through the power lines to a fully automated computer center which determines what generators must be added or taken off line to stay on par with demand.

Net metering customers will see fewer restrictions and will be able to sell back power to the grid at reduced rate.

New plan, new plant

The center of it all is the new power plant on the South Shore.

A dozen 5 megawatt flex fuel generators will be able to provide full backup in the unlikely event of all alternative power sources fail.

A large wind farm next to the power plant is the system's primary power producer. Industrial-size storing units are available to store enough power to allow any number of generators to come on line and make up for the slack if the wind drops. They work like giant capacitors and help keeping voltage and frequency steady.

There will be times where wind, big solar and net metering customers produce more power than is needed. Instead of wasting this power, it will be directed to the RO (reverse osmoses) plant also located on the premises. This water can, if needed, be used to irrigate the Giant King Grass cultivated on the wind farm premises, ultimately to be converted to fuel for power-generating purposes.

(Giant King Grass is a fast-growing perennial grass for the production of liquid biofuels for transportation, and as a renewable replacement for coal as the heat source in electricity-generating power plants.)

We do not want to be guinea pigs, nor do we need to be. What we need has already been tested and is available.

G.E.'s latest wind turbine, the 2.5 - 120 comes with power storage. Aeronautica, an all American company, specializes in providing packages to small isolated grids, like ours. They use tried-and-tested components in their setups.

With the right number of grid buffers, there is no reason why we cannot reduce our use of fossil fuels - be it natural gas or diesel - by up to 90 percent, and if we add in King Grass, 100 percent is not out of the question.

The world around us seems to be in perpetual crisis.

It is obviously in the best interest of our territory to rely as little as possible on imported basic essentials. Revamping WAPA is a giant step in that direction, and starting with St Croix makes sense.

- Steffen Larsen, St. Croix

Posted : May 1, 2013 3:16 pm
Posts: 273
Reputable Member

Right on the money. Now will the Feds will pony up?

Posted : May 1, 2013 5:28 pm
Posts: 6523
Illustrious Member

Right on the money. Now will the Feds will pony up?

What does the Federal government have to do with it? "Pony up" for what?

Posted : May 1, 2013 5:46 pm
Posts: 842
Prominent Member

"....any decision made down here will eventually need the blessing and financial help of the federal government..."

The feds aren't in a giving mood these days. Any plan for sustainalbe energy must include a presentation package for public sector financing. The VI credit rating blows (pardon the pun). Even if the VI could float an issue, who would buy a USVI bond?

$$$ aside, the wind trubine idea is strong. You lost me at diverting excess to RO for bio fuel, too many moving parts. Even if we could harvest enough energy to satisfy 80% of expected draw, we win.

This is a great opportunity for a quality provider with enough capital.

Posted : May 1, 2013 5:49 pm
Posts: 273
Reputable Member

"....any decision made down here will eventually need the blessing and financial help of the federal government..."

Is exactly what I meant.

Posted : May 1, 2013 6:04 pm
Posts: 929
Prominent Member

First split WAPA into two parts. WAPA STX and WAPA STT/STJ. Each free to pursue it's own strategies to better serve it's customers. STT's best option is to link into PR's grid and supplement with wind/solar where practical. STX needs a solution like the one detailed by Mr. Larsen, and while I don't have his confidence in Senator Malone I'd like nothing more to see this come to fruition. In the interim we should be leveraging the agreement with Hovensa to utilize their more efficient generators to power the island. Shut down Richmond entirely. Bulldoze the lot, including the remnants of public housing, and sell/lease the waterfront property to developers to fund the whole thing, with a plan to revitalize Christiansted west accordingly. As a bonus this prevents an ecological disaster waiting to happen when one of these fuel oil barges hits the reef.

Heck even Ray Charles could visualize that as a good plan.

(I should be charging as consultant for these ideas)

Posted : May 1, 2013 7:56 pm
Posts: 5404
Illustrious Member

What about reducing personnel costs?

Posted : May 1, 2013 8:46 pm
Posts: 184
Estimable Member

Good ideas. I like the hybrid idea. My concern is available land on an island. Nuclear is interesting if you can get past the potential danger. But think of it? A power plant for stx the size of a garage. We already have submarines all around us with reactors that size.

Who is the letter writer? I would like to hear more from him.




Posted : May 2, 2013 3:12 am
Posts: 2104
Noble Member

He lives on the South Shore, his home is off the grid I believe. They have 2 large wind turbines with battery storage and some sloped to I think. Really smart man, a talented photographer, his wife is Jan Mitchell, yogurt they own Mitchell Larson Gallery (art Glass).

Posted : May 2, 2013 10:58 am
Posts: 681
Honorable Member

Steffen Larson makes so much sense that it could never happen here.

Posted : May 2, 2013 11:16 am
Posts: 2138
Noble Member

...his wife is Jan Mitchell, yogurt they own Mitchell Larson Gallery (art Glass).

A few years ago, Jan told me they went back on the grid as a backup. I don't know if that's still the case.

I'd love to know what "yogurt" is doing in that sentence!

Posted : May 2, 2013 11:46 am
Posts: 2104
Noble Member

gotta love auto correct...... I think I meant together

Posted : May 2, 2013 12:41 pm
Posts: 273
Reputable Member


Posted : May 2, 2013 12:55 pm
Posts: 1937
Noble Member

Good ideas. I like the hybrid idea. My concern is available land on an island. Nuclear is interesting if you can get past the potential danger. But think of it? A power plant for stx the size of a garage. We already have submarines all around us with reactors that size.

Nuclear makes a lot of sense & there really is very little danger. In Alaska they had Mitsubishi looking at powering some of the villages there with a reactor the size of a small connex (shipping container).

I'd say nuclear makes the most sense, especially if one of the countries that is exploring LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor) technology can resurrect this method. (we had a LFTR that ran for over 10 years in the 1940's when nuclear was first being explored, but it was set a side for the "BREEDER" reactors we currently use (that produce enriched "yellow cake" uranium with U-235 levels usually above 90%... AKA weapons grade uranium).

here's a quick (5 min) over view of the technology, it has a very large following due to it's safety &tiny (comparatively) waste producing benefits (it can even function by burning current nuclear waste)

China and India are both looking into this technology... Thorium is as rare as dirt & we invented this tech... scientists call LFTR "burning rocks" for power (as thorium is so prevalent)

& of course, this is where my screen name came from.

anyway, hopefully in the near future this will be an option, I'd put a reactor in my house.

a 3 min over view of current situation with LFTR

Fun stuff!

REMEMBER: Every KILLOGRAM of Fissile material will produce as much energy as 13,000 barrels of oil

Posted : May 2, 2013 1:03 pm
Posts: 34
Eminent Member

Thanks, Bombi, always nice to add some culture to the discussion.

This is great - let's keep this thread going to the point where it gets some traction.

Posted : May 2, 2013 1:10 pm
Posts: 2552
Famed Member

I am for anything that would reduce the prices.
I also think that nuclear is the way to go, but I don't think that it will ever happen especially after the incident in Japan. Fluke!
I just hope Chuckie keeps her mouth shut, but that will never happen.
Regarding wind, over in CA the environmentalists are trying to shut down the wind farm between Palm Springs and LA because a few stupid birds get killed by the blades.
Environmentalists - may they freeze to death in the dark! They will be the ruin of this country. Yes they do have their place but they get carried away.

Posted : May 2, 2013 1:38 pm
Posts: 12366
Illustrious Member
Topic starter

I have to say, I shudder at the thought of OUR VI GOVERNMENT running and maintaining a nuclear reactor unless we all want to glow in the dark. What does our gov. currently maintain and operate properly now? Which is why we are currently in the predicament we find ourselves with our cost of living, WAPA, our schools, hospitals, VIWMA, etc.

Posted : May 2, 2013 1:40 pm
Posts: 1937
Noble Member

I have to say, I shudder at the thought of OUR VI GOVERNMENT running and maintaining a nuclear reactor unless we all want to glow in the dark. What does our gov. currently maintain and operate properly now? Which is why we are currently in the predicament we find ourselves with our cost of living, WAPA, our schools, hospitals, VIWMA, etc.

well it wouldn't be run by the government, it would be a private company I'd assume (like most power is....) & even if it was "run" by the government it would most likely be like the Alaska proposals I saw, the workings of the reactor facility would be managed by the producer of the reactor itself & not any other agency.

also "glowing in the dark" isn't really a danger, nuclear material is perfectly safe unless it's in a bomb or a doctors office or a reaction chamber.

If fukishema taught us anything, it's that nuclear power plants can fail and nothing bad happens (not a single death & the radiation levels were very low, nothing happened at all aside from damage to the power plants).

Did you know that radiation is actually GOOD for you?

Underexposed: What If Radiation Is Actually Good for You?

I'm currently wearing a Uranium pendant, following a concept called hormesis.

I do agree that I would be hesitent to support any government run powerplant, WAPA included.

Posted : May 2, 2013 2:41 pm
Posts: 887
Prominent Member

I still say a nuclear sub is the way to go. When storms come - disconnect & go deep then come back up after. Disclosure - I know nothing about nuclear power(except that it's much safer than years ago) just think its makes sense.

Posted : May 2, 2013 6:09 pm
Posts: 1085
Noble Member

I have lived in the VI (STT)for many years now. Seen all of the political BS by our senators and the gov.. It is time that the people stand up to WAPA. I am not a pipe dreamer but this is the only way we can get something done. My son works for Westinghouse and they are providing nuke plants around the world. Many countries get a majority of their power from wind. Individual owners can have solar. It goes on and on. What is WAPAs suggestion? Use CFL bulbs. Reduce the temperature of your water heaters. So they are transferring the problem to you. They need to step up to the plate and do something.

First we need to separate WAPA from the VI gov. No connection.

Second we need to have a panel choose a VIABLE company that will look at all of the options above and get us back on the right path.

Third we need to FIRE every person in who has made decisions for you. Start from Hodge and work down. These are the people that brought you ONLY 6 times the national average for power, now up to 57C/kwatt, with no end in sight. What id it goes up to $1.00/kwatt..

I purchased solar panels last year and cut my bill in almost in half. I am putting up more panels so that I am 100% free of the cost from WAPA.

that needs correction.

REMEMBER WHAT WAPA SAYS. USE MORE CFLs. Oh by the way your new rate is 60C/kwatt, this month! On sorry, WAPA now needs 65C/Kwatt.


Posted : May 4, 2013 11:45 am
Posts: 12366
Illustrious Member
Topic starter

Right on, billd!

WAPA is the driving force of the economic decline of the VI as well as that of our shortsighted (there are a few other words I can think of to use as adjectives here but they aren't allowed on this forum) Government and Senators.
Unfortunately I don't have a spare $20-$30K to get off the grid so will have to continue to pay outrageous fees for electricity.
I rec'd my lowest bill in years a couple days ago..........$163.00 and I really work at being conservative.
10 yrs. ago when I had a full time tenant in my rental, our combined bill was $145.00 and not great measures were taken such as unpluggiing every single electrical appliance when not in use.

Yesterday was my birthday and it was so stiflingly hot and still with not a leaf moving that I "treated" myself to using the A/C in bedroom overnight. Pretty amazing that one has to consider cost over a bit of comfort, thanks to WAPA.
I am dreading the rest of the hot summer season.

Posted : May 4, 2013 2:31 pm
Posts: 6523
Illustrious Member

Happy (belated) Birthday, Alana! I think I'm rather higher up than you so get more rain and more cool. One thing I did look at recently where the "summer doldrums" are concerned is the cool blanket. I'm not going to give a link as I've only partially looked into it but if you google "cool blanket" you'll find several options. They work on the same principle as electric heating blankets and are considerably less expensive than running an a/c unit.

Posted : May 4, 2013 3:37 pm
Posts: 340
Reputable Member

I also agree that the ripple effect caused by rising electricity costs is the biggest problem we face here.

My question is who is to stop a private company from coming in?

Lets say a private company wanted to come here, buy some land, set up shop, and start selling power to the people of the VI.

Are there laws that say they cant? If so could we the people vote to overturn those laws?

Is it that it would not be profitable so they don't bother?

Do the people of the VI have no other choice but to be at the mercy of WAPA?

Just curious.....

Posted : May 4, 2013 4:09 pm
Posts: 12366
Illustrious Member
Topic starter

Just ask Chucky, Bert Bryan and a couple other Senators about when Southern Electric was primed to buy WAPA, yrs. ago.
As a utilty, to operate in VI you need Gov. approvals. I don't know all the hoops one must jump thru but just look at the wind turbines at STT K-Mart that were installed, never used due to WAPA opposition, gov. red tape and now, yrs. later, are rusting away and still unused.

Posted : May 4, 2013 5:27 pm
Posts: 6523
Illustrious Member

... but just look at the wind turbines at STT K-Mart that were installed, never used due to WAPA opposition, gov. red tape and now, yrs. later, are rusting away and still unused.

So much on both sides of that fence to leave any Devil's Advocate recovering from a total mental breakdown. Ah, the history of the Tutu Park Mall, its creators and al the special "deals" which went into that development ... the now rusting windmills were but a tiny addendum to that whole deal.

Posted : May 4, 2013 5:54 pm
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