Utility for British Virgin Islands seeks EPC to build solar and storage microgrid

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The utility for the British Virgin Islands is prequalifying engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) firms as it prepares to build a 4-MW solar and storage microgrid in Paraquita Bay, Tortola.

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By Peter Hermes Furian/Shutterstock.com

Interested companies can respond to a request for qualifications issued by British Virgin Islands Electricity. Applications are due Jan. 7, 2022. The utility expects to prequalify firms and issue them bidding documents in March.

In addition to installing solar photovoltaics and battery storage, the chosen EPC firm will construct a substation, install underground cabling and interconnect the microgrid to the main grid.  

The solicitation is open to companies from countries that are Caribbean Development Bank borrowing members.

Incorporated in 1979, British Virgin Islands Electricity is a state-owned electric utility that serves about 17,000 customers with 57 MW of installed power capacity.

After Hurricanes Irma and Maria pummeled the Virgin Islands in 2017, causing people to flee and businesses to close, the utility’s peak electric demand fell by half. The demand has been steadily increasing since then and now peaks at about 29.5 MW, still below its pre-Irma 34 MW. 

The hurricane inspired a plan to redesign the islands’ electricity system so that it is better prepared for extreme weather. Undertaken by the utility, the Caribbean Development Bank and sustainability organization RMI, the plan diversifies and decentralizes the islands’ technology mix with an eye toward cleaner and lower cost energy. The islands now heavily rely on diesel fuel. 

The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority, which serves the US Virgin Islands, also has been pursuing microgrids, winning $4.4 million in funding earlier this year from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the first phase of a $129 million solar microgrid planned on western St. Croix. When finished, the microgrid plus 4 MW of solar from another site, will produce about half of St. Croix’s electricity.

The authority also plans to build microgrids on St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island.

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.