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Richard Branson’s Virgin Group Buys Storm-Damaged Solar Farm on St. Croix

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SPANISH TOWN — A clean-power company owned by billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has taken over a St. Croix solar farm that was damaged last year by Hurricane Maria.

Virgin’s BMR Energy unit, which develops, owns and operates clean-energy projects in the Caribbean and Latin America, plans to restore the four-megawatt farm in St. Croix, and take over a power-purchase agreement, according to a statement Tuesday. It has been running at less than 45 percent of capacity since the September storm. Terms of the acquisition from NRG Energy Inc. weren’t disclosed.

Some Caribbean islands have turned to renewables to diversify fuel supplies for electricity generation. Branson — who owns and lives on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands — has previously advocated for clean and renewable energy sources. Virgin bought New York-based BMR in 2016.

The overhaul of the solar farm in Spanish Town, St. Croix, should be complete by October, BMR Chief Executive Officer Bruce Levy said in an interview. While many of the panels survived, BMR is replacing damaged inverters with salt- and moisture-resistant equipment, he said. BMR also owns a 36-megawatt wind farm in Jamaica and a five-megawatt solar farm in Guatemala and is working to buy another undisclosed solar project in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Developing new projects is a challenge and takes time,” Levy said. “Putting broken projects back together goes faster.”


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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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