Saturday, Aug 24, 2019
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BPL moves toward goal

The Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) plant at Clifton Pier to provide new generation service is in the process of being handed over to Finnish company Wärtsilä. Earlier this month, BPL announced it signed a contract with Wärtsilä to install 132-megawatts of power at Clifton. It will cost $95 million.

The BPL statement yesterday explained that the $95 million refit of BPL’s Station A building has progressed to the point that Wärtsilä is able to take possession of it to complete the build-out of the 132-megawatt power plant. The new plant is expected to be operational by the end of the summer.

“The new plant will be anchored by seven new Wärtsilä 50DF engines, scheduled to be shipped from Italy at the end of March 2019 and arrive in Nassau in late April, [possibly] early May 2019,” said BPL.

“The Wärtsilä 50DF engine is designed to give high output with fuel flexibility, low emissions, efficiency and reliability, and can burn natural gas, light fuel oil or heavy fuel oil. The engines can smoothly switch between fuels whilst operating, and are designed to provide the same output, regardless of the fuel.

“A major feature of the new engines is the heavy reliance on electronic control. The engine functions are controlled by an advanced automation system that allows optimal running conditions to be set, independent of the ambient conditions or fuel type.”

The state of electricity generation and distribution in New Providence – and quite a few other islands – has been a disaster for years. When peak-use season comes in the hot Caribbean summer, the state electricity provider is unable to satisfy demand.

What results year after year? Rolling blackouts. They disrupt family life. They disrupt businesses. The electricity fluctuations also destroy appliances and equipment in homes and businesses.

Those with money buy generators. Those who can’t afford them sit frustrated in the dark.

The Minnis administration pledged a solution to the problem.

It is important for the BPL to stabilize its situation. Outdated equipment and recent fires that damaged infrastructure have made the company’s generation situation unstable.

While in the medium to long term we must add renewable sources to our energy mix, right now we need generation equipment that works, and works consistently.

The deal with the Finnish company is supposed to work under a wider umbrella with Shell North America, which should include a switch to natural gas. Natural gas is cleaner than the heavy fuel we regularly use. Under the understanding with Shell there should be 220 megawatts of power.

The last Christie administration left office with BPL’s New Providence network in crisis. No major decision was made and signed to move the state energy supplier forward under them.

Stabilizing BPL in New Providence would be a major accomplishment for the Minnis administration. All who reside here should be happy if this goal is achieved. Our current energy situation is inadequate for a modern economy.

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