BMR ENERGY’S SPANISH TOWN FACILITY

Building Renewable Resilience in St. Croix

Context

The Caribbean has been shifting towards a more renewable energy supply over the past decade. Since the massive devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 however, “resilience” has been at the crux of conversations as governments rebuild infrastructure and consider future development.

The Spanish Town solar farm in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands—in operation since 2015—received significant damage during the 2017 hurricanes. The plant remained offline for nearly 5 months, while grid repairs were implemented, and production was limited to less than 45 percent of its energy capacity once reenergized. BMR restored the plant to full capacity, with improved storm resilience, by November 2018. The solar farm was honored the 2019 Best Resilience Project Award by the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum (CREF).

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4 megawatts of power

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16,000 solar panels
and 9 inverters

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Located in St. Croix,
U.S. Virgin Islands

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Returned to full operation November 2018

In June 2018, BMR Energy acquired the plant from NRG Energy, Inc. and implemented efforts to restore and enhance the facility, while quickly returning it to service.

Impact

  • Supplies power for approximately 1,600 homes in St. Croix.
  • Power provided to the local grid decreases the amount of fuel oil that needs to be burned to provide electricity.
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 7,200 tons of CO2 equivalent per year — the equivalent of taking 1,400 cars off the road each year.
  • Increases facility resilience and promotes energy stability for St. Croix by utilizing outdoor-rated solar panels and inverters.

Process

While the Spanish Town facility’s racking was sturdy, well-designed and rated to withstand hurricane-force winds, some damages were still incurred. The majority of the plant’s photovoltaic (PV) infrastructure remained standing, and the limited damage has since been repaired. The plant’s electrical equipment, including the inverters, sustained significant damage — despite being housed inside a sealed building — when the structure’s roof fan blew out during the hurricane. The facility also experienced a static surge that damaged electronic equipment and some solar PV modules.

As the new facility owners, BMR has employed an extreme-case scenario approach to resilience by replacing the damaged electrical and inverter equipment with outdoor-rated equipment with salt- and moisture-resistant coating even though the inverters will remain indoors. In replanning the roof fan, all supporting structures and attachment methods would strengthened. To combat future static surges, BMR reinforced the grounding system for the electrical equipment and array and established new storm preparedness operating procedures to check grounding systems and reinforce where needed. Under BMR’s ownership, facility design and operations center around planning for both the known and unknown.

Beyond the Project

BMR is committed to going beyond energy development in our support for thriving, sustainable communities.

In Spanish Town, BMR is creating jobs by employing local residents and several locally-based contracting partners to restore and maintain the facility. BMR Energy is also supporting the efforts of the government to develop and train a solar workforce to further ignite solar implementation across the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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