BMR to re-energise St Croix, USVI

… acquires solar plant

Friday, August 17, 2018

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BMR Energy Ltd, parent company to BMR Jamaica Ltd, announced recently that it has purchased the four-megawatt, fixed ground-mount solar facility from NRG Energy, Inc in St Croix, US Virgin Islands, which was damaged during Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

According to a release from the energy company, BMR will take over the power purchase agreement that NRG currently has with The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (VIWAPA), as well as restoration efforts of the St Croix solar farm that sustained significant damage during last year's hurricane.

“Restoring the solar facility in Spanish Town, St Croix, to full capacity generation is core to our mission of supporting clean energy infrastructure in the Caribbean and Latin America,” said Bruce Levy, CEO of BMR Energy. “This acquisition is an opportunity to show how to build for stronger hurricane resiliency and offer greater value to the region. As the prolonged restoration in these hurricane-devastated areas highlights — with Puerto Rico being the most extreme example — we must remain committed to rebuilding our infrastructure right and successfully maintaining projects through long-term ownership.”

The acquisition of the solar plant in St Croix will be BMR's third market through which the company has a presence in the Latin American and Caribbean region, after Guatemala and Jamaica. In the latter the company operates a wind farm in Malvern, St Elizabeth, which serves about 15,000 customers with 11 wind turbines and has the potential to generate 1,200,000 megawatts per year or about three per cent of Jamaica's energy demand.

In 2016, the Sir Richard Branson-owned Virgin Investments purchased BMR Energy. The British billionaire has long been an advocate for clean energy, and in 2009 he co-founded Carbon War Room, a global non-profit organisation that aims to strengthen and expand economic efforts not reliant on fossil fuels.

Branson has also been credited for championing a “green energy revolution” to make Caribbean economies more sustainable by replacing obsolete fossil-fuel power grids with renewable energy systems that can withstand extreme weather and boost economic development in the Caribbean.

“BMR Energy is an expert in developing clean energy — the team also acts as a long-term partner and is working to make a huge difference in the region,” Branson is quoted in the release. “The world needs to find ways to introduce more resilient clean energy. The Caribbean has an abundance of clean energy sources, and BMR [is] taking great strides towards helping create zero-carbon energy supplies for years to come.”

In the meantime, BMR Energy is aiming to complete restoration of the St Croix solar plant by October 2018, and has already employed locals and contracted domiciled companies to accomplish this goal. When finished, the plant will generate power for some 1,600 homes.

Along with the physical damage inflicted on the Caribbean region by last year's powerful hurricanes, Hurricane Maria curbed renewable energy supply in the US Virgin Islands. Since then the St Croix solar plant has been running at less than 45 per cent, which puts a strain on VIWAPA, the local power and utility company, to plan the supply of the island's energy needs and meet its clean-energy goals.

BMR has been assisting VIWAPA with recovery from the impact of the 2017 hurricane season, as well as preparation for the current season.

“BMR's goals with the restoration process are to get the site restored for the most competitive price and as quickly as possible to accommodate VIWAPA's planning needs. BMR is set to receive approval from the utility to purchase another hurricane-damaged USVI solar project in the coming weeks,” the company states in the release.

Lawrence J Kupfer, executive director and CEO of VIWAPA, commented, “For jurisdictions in the Caribbean looking to meet clean-energy goals, building hurricane-resilient renewable energy infrastructure is crucial to long-term success. We look to these resiliency-focused projects and our work with BMR Energy as a critical part in our goal to reach 60 per cent fossil fuel reduction by 2025.”

— Josimar Scott

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