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V.I. GUINEA PIGS! Territory Will Be The First In The World To ‘Try’ Finnish Liquid Gas-Oil Hybrid Plant

CHRISTIANSTED — A Helsinki, Finland technology group has been awarded a contract to deliver a yet unproven power plant and energy storage system to the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA).

The St. Croix plant will be delivered and installed on an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) basis by Wärtsilä as purchased by WAPA.

“It will be capable of burning both liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and light fuel oil (LFO), while also being fitted with batteries using Wärtsilä’s state of the art GEMS energy management platform to provide optimised energy operations,” the Wärtsilä company said in a prepared statement.

The order by WAPA was booked with Wärtsilä in June 2020.

The four Wärtsilä 32 liquid gas engines will deliver a total output of 36 megawatts, while the energy storage system will add further nine megawatts for up to two-hours.

In addition to being Wärtsilä’s first engine/hybrid power plant sale, this will also be the first installation of the Wärtsilä liquid gas engines, and the company’s first engines capable of burning both LPG and LFO. 

“The Wärtsilä plant will provide much needed additional baseload capacity to the Island’s electricity supply,” WAPA CEO Lawrence Kupfer claimed. “It will improve the system’s reliability, while at the same time giving us additional fuel and operational flexibility that will increase fuel efficiency and lower overall operating costs. It will also reduce the dependence and environmental impact of diesel oil. The four generators are fueled by a cleaner burning fuel which will lead to reduced air emissions and enhanced overall air quality. There is no adverse impact to land, water or the surrounding areas.”

The project is scheduled to be completed with a fully operational plant by spring 2022.

“The ability to most efficiently burn both LPG and LFO was a major factor in selecting the Wärtsilä LG engines for this project,” Edmund Phillips, Business Development Manager, Wärtsilä Energy, said. “Additionally, the hybrid solution will add even more operational flexibility and will serve to improve the existing grid stability on the island. This project showcases our unique technological capabilities in combining an engine power plant and energy storage, and our commitment to drive the energy transition towards low carbon systems.”

Meanwhile, people in the U.S. Virgin Islands were skeptical of the untested Finnish technology on social media and wondered why garbage waste couldn’t be used to fuel the new plant.

“We need to solve waste problem like yesterday,” Tetyana Hayes said from St. Thomas on Facebook. “Why not a waste-burning energy plant?”

“Yes, I have been saying that for years,” John Wynwood said on Facebook. “How hard could it be?”

“Agreed,” Elroy Hector said from St. Croix on Facebook.

“Same as Puerto Rico, they need to get together and fight,” Johnny Rutz said from Andorra, Spain.

“Here we go wasting money on a power plant that’s not even proven it will work,” Steven Antebi said on Facebook. “WOW, how about wind or ocean kinetic energy or even solar. At this point, a few mongoose in a Ferris wheel would be better.”

Wärtsilä has previously supplied and installed a 21 MW power plant running primarily on propane gas to WAPA.

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