|Location||U.S. Virgin Islands|
|Partners||National Renewable Energy Laboratory|
Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority
Virgin Islands Energy Office
The U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) worked with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) from 2009 to 2013 to develop and begin implementing a strategy for transitioning from 100% reliance on imported fossil fuel energy to a clean, sustainable energy future. By reducing its dependence on imported oil through increased energy efficiency and strategic development of its abundant renewable resources, the USVI has made significant strides toward greater economic stability and a clean energy economy. With financial assistance from DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the U.S. Department of the Interior and technical assistance from DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the USVI has thoroughly evaluated its clean energy opportunities, undertaken major energy efficiency upgrades, and made a $65 million investment in solar power.
In 2010, in response to electricity prices more than four times higher than the U.S. average, the USVI set an ambitious goal to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels 60% by 2025. The USVI pilot project was launched as part of the Energy Development in Island Nations (EDIN) international partnership to help islands across the globe adopt energy efficiency measures and deploy renewable energy technologies. As an EDIN project partner, the USVI was able to tap into a broad spectrum of technical assistance and project development support from DOE and NREL.
DOE and NREL technical experts worked with the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA), the Virgin Islands Energy Office, and other USVI stakeholders to perform a baseline energy assessment and identify the best combination of wind, solar, waste-to-energy, landfill gas, and energy efficiency technologies for the USVI to meet its aggressive clean energy goal. This early analysis pointed to energy efficiency improvements and solar resource development as important first steps.
In December 2010, EDIN-USVI launched “VIenergize”—a public awareness campaign designed to build grassroots support for the territory’s clean energy goals. The campaign encouraged Virgin Islanders to embrace energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions and, with its populist message (“Energy Revolution … We Are the Solution”), focused on how the small, everyday actions of individuals and businesses can add up to big savings in energy and money.
The campaign supported the EDIN-USVI partnership’s larger VIenergize initiative, which provided the technical support, information, and tools the territory needed to address its energy challenges and ultimately achieve its clean energy goals. The initiative, which was implemented in phases, began with energy conservation and efficiency efforts, built momentum with the deployment of small, distributed renewable applications, and ultimately incorporated larger renewable energy systems into USVI homes and businesses.
In April 2012, WAPA moved to establish a new energy service business unit focused on facilitating successful energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in the territory. A $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior led to the development of WAPA’s VIenergize Services Network of engineers, contractors, and financiers who assist USVI power customers in implementing clean energy projects in support of the 60% by 2025 goal.
WAPA led the charge on generation energy efficiency in 2010, when it installed reverse osmosis and waste heat recovery systems at its St. Croix power plant. The reverse osmosis system greatly enhanced the energy efficiency of water desalination, while the heat recovery steam generator (HRSG) added 19 MW of power to the grid without burning a single drop of additional oil. The HRSG also enabled WAPA to idle its diesel boilers, saving about 1,750 gallons of diesel fuel per hour when the plant was running at full load. The next year, the USVI government took the lead on end-use efficiency, implementing building energy efficiency upgrades on 11 schools. The energy cost-savings of $1.3 million the first year and $1.7 million the second year led the government to authorize $35 million in funding in 2013 to install lighting and water retrofits in 34 more schools.
The USVI also completed its first utility-scale solar project in 2011, a 448-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) system at the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas that was the largest in the Caribbean at the time. In 2012, WAPA put in place an improved interconnection process designed to accelerate the speed and scale of renewable energy adoption, and that same year the utility signed power purchase agreements (PPAs) for more than 18 MW of solar on St. Thomas and St. Croix. The planned installations, representing more than $65 million in total investments, would enable the utility to purchase solar electricity at a significantly lower and more sustainable rate than the same amount of diesel-generated power. By 2013, a 4-MW utility-scale PV project on St. Croix was meeting over 10% of the island’s peak demand with clean, renewable energy. This solar plant, which is one of the largest PV systems in the Caribbean, saves nearly $1,000 per day in electricity costs. In addition, close to 1,500 solar water heating and PV systems had been installed throughout the territory, and almost 15 megawatts (MW) of distributed solar PV were either in place or under construction.
In 2015, the utility cut the ribbon on the second utility-scale solar PV system in St. Thomas, a 5-MW project on the eastern side of the island. It is moving forward with plans for additional 9 MW of utility-scale solar generation—3 MW on St. Thomas and 6 MW on St. Croix. Future plans include a 7-MW biomass project in St. Croix and utilty-scale wind projects.
The USVI’s successful clean energy transition provides a model for other islands to follow in developing their renewable energy resources.
- Energy Snapshot: U.S. Virgin Islands
- U.S. Virgin Islands Ramping Up Clean Energy Efforts with an Eye Toward a Sustainable Future
- U.S. Virgin Islands Leadership Embraces Inclusiveness to Ensure Community Ownership of Clean Energy Vision
- Working Groups Collaborate on U.S. Virgin Islands Clean Energy Vision and Road Map
- Assessing Pathways in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Hawai'i
- U.S. Virgin Islands Establishes Interconnection Standards to Clear the Way for Grid Interconnection
- U.S. Virgin Islands Clears the Way for Unprecedented Levels of Solar Energy