Oct. 11, 2005 The Renaissance Group has been the most public of the four certified potential alternative energy providers for the Water and Power Authority. The St. Croix company has been placing full-page advertisements in local newspapers telling residents who it is and what it does.
The other company whose proposal concerns using fossil fuel to create electricity Caribbean Energy Resources has decided that the period running up to Nov. 30, when WAPA will open proposals from the alternative energy providers, is not the time to make any public statements.
Caribbean Energy Resources would use an externally fired combined cycle electrical generator fueled on petcoke, or petroleum coke. Representatives of Caribbean Energy have said they have in mind a plant with a capacity to produce 60 to 80 megawatts of power.
The company is proposing to build not only the power plant, but also a gypsum plant and what its officials describe as a "micro steel mill" producing carbon steel. The power facility and the two manufacturing plants would employ 1,200 to 1,500 people, although the power facility itself would employ very few.
The argument that will be used against the Renaissance Group, which proposes a coal-fired power plant, and Caribbean Energy will be that they are fossil-fuel based. Many residents see the awarding of a contract by WAPA as an opportunity to move forward into a field of renewable energy.
Petcoke is actually a derivative from oil, and Alberto Bruno-Vega, executive director of WAPA, has been saying for the last couple of years that WAPA has to get away from its dependency on oil. People such as May Adams Cornwall, executive director of the Waste Management Authority, would like this to go a step further and help the environment by using waste materials to produce power. (See "Decision on Energy Alternatives Slow in Coming").
Bevan Smith, V.I. Energy Office director, also has concerns that renewable energy might be lost in this shuffle. His concern is not so much who will get the contract, but how the contract is written. He said he doesn't believe a big firm is going to come in and provide a substantial amount of power through wind or solar means.
However, his office is running pilot projects to determine how a very small producer of energy could sell the excess energy it produces to WAPA. (See "Energy Office Seeking Input on Its Programs"). He testified this summer at a legislative hearing concerning the Emergency Job Creation and Economic Stimulus Act of 2005, the legislation guiding this proposal process for an alternative power provider. The way the bill is written, it appears that only the company that gets this contract can supply power to WAPA.
Smith told senators, "If the interpretation is not clear, it can inadvertently lock out two of the most viable renewable sources of energy wind and solar energy from interconnecting in parallel with the utility grid on the demand side of the equation, the consumer side, where small power producers can own and maintain distributed generation sites."
He said his presentation was greeted positively by the senators, but nothing was ever done about changing the wording in the bill.
Caribbean Energy will be countering the argument about using renewable energy sources with an argument about the number of jobs it plans to create. Job creation is one of the top criteria in determining which company will be awarded the contract.
Renaissance Group will argue that its methods are the only ones that can be depended on. It will also point out that it is the only company with a tangible investment on St. Croix. Renaissance owns the 1,244-acre site that previously belonged to the St. Croix Alumina Plant. It already owns a power generating plant that has supplied water and power to Frederiksted, and it has a permit to operate that plant from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Jehangin Zakaria, a former vice president with Renaissance and an engineer, acknowledges that burning oil is generally a cleaner operation than burning coal. However, he added that the permit for Renaissance's plant is to burn only high-quality, low-sulfur coal, and therefore the emission of pollutants will be minimal for a coal-fired plant. "We are going to be environmentally conscious, and EPA will keep our feet to the fire," Zakaria said.
He said the company is investigating whether more filters are needed on the stacks to comply with new and stricter rules that have recently gone into effect.
He said the fly ash the remains from the process could be used as building material, and Renaissance is talking to a cement company about the possibility of locating on St. Croix and using the fly ash.
Zakaria said three things would allow Renaissance to bring reliable and affordable energy to V.I. residents: the right hardware, the right operating procedures and the right training. He said Renaissance already had the hardware, knew the correct operating procedures and was dedicated to training workers.
Myron Allick, vice president of operations for Renaissance, emphasized the interconnectivity of the plant. WAPA's plant is located in Estate Richmond, just outside of Christiansted. Renaissance's plant is in Estate Anguilla, not far from the development in the Sunny Isles area and would be a natural to supply power west to Frederiksted.
Although Allick was not prepared last week to give a quote on what power generating by Renaissance would cost, he did say it took about $15 of coal to produce the amount of energy produced by a barrel of oil. A barrel of oil has been in the $60 to $70 range since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.
Renaissance has permits to supply from 55 to 60 megawatts, and according to Allick, could supply that power within 18 months of getting a contract.
Renaissance Group was certified by the Public Services Commission in November of last year.
The Renaissance Group first came on the scene in 2002, when it submitted a bid to provide an interim solution to St. Croix's solid waste disposal problem. The Anguilla Landfill was scheduled to close at the end of that year, but Renaissance did not win the bid.
WAPA is holding a conference this Friday at its Sunny Isles offices for anyone who is interested in submitting a proposal.
WAPA originally sent out requests for proposals over a year ago. However, that effort was quashed by the PSC, which wanted WAPA to negotiate with companies certified by the PSC. Only four companies are certified now, but other companies are expected to submit proposals to WAPA and seek certification later.
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