Wind Lets Island University Explore Cheaper Power

Islands have the benefit of lots of wind, what being out in the ocean and all, and the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) is testing its resources to see how much power a wind turbine could provide for the campus.

UVI has joined with USVI Wind, a division of Boston-based EMI, to determine the feasibility of installing a 1.5 MW wind turbine at a site on the University’s St. Thomas campus. The GE 1.5se model wind turbine would be the first in the Caribbean region, according to the UVI press release, and could generate over a third of the electrical needs of the St. Thomas campus. The University wants to meet all of the necessary qualifications in order to have the unit operational by December of 2005. While remaining a customer of the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA), the proposed “behind the fence” power distribution system will permit the electricity generated by a wind turbine to reduce the amount of power presently supplied by WAPA. Renewable energy goals became a campus goal when Dr. LaVerne E. Ragster joined the university system as president of UVI in 2003. During her inaugural address she said the University would set the pace in the region for the utilization of alternative energy sources. While many U.S. mainland colleges and universities purchase “green power” from off-campus wind farms at a slight premium above conventional power rates, in the Virgin Islands the cost of wind-generated electric power is actually less than the current conventional rates, resulting in a potential operating savings to UVI. The University spends in excess of $1.5 million annually in energy related costs, according to Patrick O’Donnell, UVI’s Director of Facilities. Through the use of renewable power initiatives such as wind power turbines, solar lighting and hot water systems, and a reduction in energy consumption and sustainable building design, UVI expects to avoid energy expenditures by a minimum of $300,000 per year over the next year. UVI recently hosted technical representatives from General Electric, as well as specialists in turbine installation and operation. Meetings were also held with local contractors and engineers, as well as with Crowley and Tropical Shipping, as the logistics of delivering and erecting the components on the UVI campus are an important part of the feasibility process. Preliminary meetings have been held with WAPA as well as interested UVI faculty, staff and students to apprise them of UVI’s interests and to answer questions. UVI and its partners continue to investigate permitting and regulatory clarifications as the information gathering continues. A series of community meetings will be scheduled to exchange information and to entertain questions and/or concerns from community members. The next meeting will take place on Tuesday, March 1 at 6:30 p.m. on the 2nd floor mezzanine of the Sports and Fitness Center. The University of the Virgin Islands has had a long history of researching and implementing energy conserving measures on its campuses. The wind turbine project is only one of a number of energy initiatives currently underway or being researched at the University. Solar projects have been implemented on St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John, including solar water heating for all of the dormitories on the St. Thomas campus, solar site lighting on the St. Croix campus and solar power generation at the Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station on St. John. UVI has installed energy efficient glare reducing insulated glass in most of its major buildings, along with occupancy sensors for both lighting and air conditioning, passive and mechanical ventilation, advanced building insulation and the use of energy efficient lighting.
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