Where Good Ideas Come to Die

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Dear Source:
The Virgin Islands has for a long time had a reputation for being the place where good ideas come to die.
How many of you have observed newcomers arriving full of entrepreneurial enthusiasm only to see them turn frustrated, cynical and finally one day: bam! They are gone.
Those of us who have managed to make it here and even do well often contribute this to the ability to accept the fact that logic, reason and common sense do not always apply to this Territory.
Other people will simply say: We just love it here! What is your excuse?
Point and case: Oil at $102 a barrel, WAPA clearly immerging as under funded and dysfunctional, almost all Virgin Islanders are now aware that alternative energy must be part of a solution.
The recent wind energy workshop on STT clearly underscored that fact and demonstrated that hundreds of property owners are ready to dig into their own pockets, not just to lower their Wapa bill and make sure they have light when others don't, but also because there is a growing awareness that Mother Earth is showing signs of wear and tear.
It was good to see Gov. deJongh stand up at the workshop and not only echo that sentiment, but encouraging everybody to jump on the 'Do It Yourself alternative energy bandwagon.'
You would think that this policy declaration (also expressed in the Gov's State Of The Territory Address) quickly would be adopted by what we know as the Virgin Islands Government.
But let us see what happens when Mr. Green decides to help himself and the environment by putting up a small 2kw wind generator on a standard 100ft pole on his own property:
Incl. a nice energy rebate, shipping, custom dues and installation he figures that his $7-10,000 investment will pay off 6 to 8 years down the line, but his troubles have only just started.
DPNR has devised a rule that by and large means that only a property owner who has a full acre (square) next to his house qualifies for a permit to put up a wind generator. According to this rule his windmill must be able to fall in all directions without hitting any structures or the neighboring property.
How many property owners have a one acre vacant lot next to their house? I say 2-3% at best. So out 500 potential windmill owners maybe 5-10 may qualify.
Needless to say this rule does not apply to power poles or that tree close to the property line both likely to tumble in the next category 5 hurricane, while your windmill is safely lowered to the ground and secured in it's cradle.
There is dumb, dumber and then there is DPNR.
But wait! You do have that extra acre next to your house and you do qualify! Hurrah! So all you have to do now is to obtain the following: Earth change application form. Earth change map package. Application for electrical permit. Request for electrical inspection. Application for building permit. Request for building inspection. Permit application control form. Topographical survey. Structural Engineers drawing on site plan. Minor land change permit. All adding up to $ 4,155 and 6-12 months of processing.
So having successfully killed 98% of Alternative wind power in the Territory you may wonder what is next for DPNR. The Energy Office is soon to be put directly under the Gov. Office, and Senator Hill's energy bill is in its final stage of fine-tuning and will soon be ready for a vote. It is an excellent bill. It will bring the Territory up to par with the rest of US. But DPNR can complicate the implementation if they choose to do so.
They are, in my opinion, already ignoring existing law. The Solar and Wind Energy System Act passed by the 15th Legislature (1985) by and large give right away to Alternative Energy devises. Go read it!
My own conclusion: Within the Virgin Islands Government there are departments that appear to spend time and resources securing and boosting their own turf, thus loosing sight of job #1: That of serving in the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands. We saw the Gov. take action with WMA, and I really hope DPNR is next in line. People who want to invest their own money in our failing energy infrastructure should not be punished.
I applaud a government who wants to participate in renewable energy and the implementation of it. But in out case there is a need for urgency that leaves little room for mistakes like the one highlighted in this letter. There are still people in our government who think alternative energy is more like a fashion statement and there isn't time to provide the necessary education to set them straight.
All in all it would be best for the Territory to have government step aside. We have all the expertise we need right here amongst people who live here. We do not need more $850,000 studies telling us what we already know.
Finally: The latest development in storage of power now makes it possible to rely on wind energy to a much higher degree than ever before. As of right now the Virgin Islands have a chance to become a first to produce 50% of all electric energy from wind and have surplus energy converted to Hydrogen for transportation purposes. In other words: we could become a showcase for the rest of the World.
Is this just another idea that came here to die?
Steffen Larsen
St. Croix

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to [email protected].

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