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BPL to get new plant

Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) announced yesterday that it has signed a contract with Finnish technology group Wartsila to install a new 132-megawatt engine power plant at the Clifton Pier site that will cost approximately $95 million.

The installation is expected to be completed this year, and will lead to more reliable electricity supply and lower fuel charges on customers’ monthly bills, according to BPL officials.

The acquisition is also expected to allow BPL to end its expensive rental generation program.

“The new plant will be tri-fuel, capable of burning heavy fuel oil, diesel oil, or liquefied natural gas (LNG), when it becomes locally available,” said BPL CEO Whitey Heastie, during a press conference at the company’s Tucker Road headquarters.

“This operational flexibility of the new plant is an important step to ensuring energy and price security for The Bahamas.

“When this project is completed, customers will see a substantial improvement in the power generation reliability in New Providence and a lower fuel charge on their monthly billing.

“The lower fuel charge will result from both the use of more efficient generation along with the ability to burn lower price fuel.

“Additionally, BPL will now own sufficient generating assets to finally close the chapter on rental generation in New Providence, which began in 2011.”

The new plant will be located in the existing Station A building at BPL’s compound at Clifton Pier, which was recently stripped of four 1980s vintage two-stroke engines and auxiliary equipment, which were out of service since 2016.

Heastie said civil engineering upgrades are being completed so that the station can accommodate the seven new Wartsila engines.

When asked how the company plans to pay for the $95 million project, Heastie said, “When the fires happened in September of last year, in a way that’s good, in as much as we were brand new in the fiscal year and we were able to push aside a lot of the capital projects that we were planning on doing, knowing that we would have to put in generation ahead, to supplement the loss of the 63 megawatts that was lost under station C. So, the money is actually coming from capital works that was deferred in favor of this new generation.”

Heastie would not indicate what percentage of those funds would come from capital works and simply noted that it was a “great percentage”.

According to Wartsila’s Business Development Specialist Edmund Phillips, the plant will be flexible enough to accommodate the unpredictability of renewables, it will be able to burn multiple fuels, it will be reliable, and it will be about 30 percent more efficient than what is at the Blue Hills site.

The engines, which are being manufactured in Trieste, Italy, are scheduled to leave that country by the end of March and will take two months to arrive on the island.

Once they arrive, the installation is expected to take approximately four months.

Foreign and local labor

According to Phillips, all works will be managed by Wartsila and local staff will be used where applicable.

He however noted, that in order to install these engines, specialized skill sets are required.

“So, as a result of that what we typically do, when we travel to these islands, we first seek local help,” he said.

“If we can’t find local help, then we will bring in international personnel with the required experience to install the plant. I can’t say the exact number of local staff that we will go out and find because it varies once the work starts.”

Heastie said, “We are going to have to make sure that we fully rely on the experts to come in and do what they do best. We do not have anybody inside of BPL today that would understand Wartsila four-stroke engines. And, so, we are relying on Wartsila to come and do what they do best around the world  and make sure that whatever is put in here, match or exceed what they had done and demonstrated around the world.”

The process of engaging local people has reportedly already started.

“We’ve interviewed many local engineering companies,” Phillips added.

“We’ve selected local civil engineering companies to do the civil works. But [there’s] just no electrical mechanical skill set on the island.”

Wartsila is an energy solutions provider headquartered in Helsinki, Finland.

The company is present in 175 countries globally and 95 percent of Caribbean nations, with an installed based of over 3,500 megawatts.

It presently has four plants under construction in the region.

Sloan Smith

Staff Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Sloan covers national news for The Nassau Guardian. Sloan officially joined the news team in September 2016 but interned at The Nassau Guardian while studying journalism at the University of The Bahamas.
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications

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