BPL says Wartsila plant online

The new 130-megawatts Wartsila plant at the Clifton Pier Power Station is officially online, Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) said yesterday.

The plant was announced in March as a way to increase the generation capacity on New Providence.

It was initially expected to be completed by September 2019.

Yesterday, in a statement, BPL said, “Today, Station A at the Bahamas Power and Light Company Ltd. Clifton Pier Power Station is online and providing power to the grid, meeting the December 15 deadline set by BPL and Wartsila.”

It noted that the plant features “seven state-of-the-art Wartsila 50DF tri-fuel engines”.

BPL said each of the engines has been tested and commissioned over the past few weeks and each has already been tested at full load on the BPL power grid.

“Engines will be staggered onto the grid over the coming weeks in order to space out maintenance cycles,” the power company said.

“The power plant coming online means 130-megawatts of high-efficiency, lower-cost power that becomes the replacement baseload generation for BPL New Providence operations, and leapfrogs the company into the forefront of power generation technology.”

BPL Chairman Dr. Donovan Moxey said the Wartsila plant marks “the first milestone on our strategic turnaround plan for our national utility”.

He said the plant means that BPL is “close to bringing an end to load shedding”.

As a result of a generation shortfall, BPL consumers across New Providence suffered through load shedding exercises for roughly six months this year.

In August, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis called the situation a “crisis”, although he has clarified that it was not an energy crisis, but rather a crisis for the people forced to deal with the outages.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest has declared that the government would spare no finances to find a short-term solution to load shedding.

Cabinet later approved the purchase of a 30-megawatt general electric engine to assist with the power generation issues.

BPL CEO Whitney Heastie described the launch of the new plant as “a critical accomplishment for us”.

“We have been working miracles to keep a severely debilitated generation fleet online, plagued by old machines that have – for various reasons – not been maintained as well as they could have been, and also by a growing demand for electricity that has taxed our ability to supply,” Heastie said.

“Now, with the replacement power out of Clifton Pier, we can shift our baseload generation – that is, the first power to the grid and the foundation of our power supply – to Station A, which means we’re burning cheaper, more efficient fuel with more reliable engines first. Our customers will see the difference.”

In September 2018, fire damaged BPL’s generators at the Clifton Pier Power Plant.

Firefighters responded to three fires at the Clifton plant, in the same areas, just days apart.

BPL said its board of directors made the decision to build the new plant at Station A as a result of the fires.

“Working with Shell NA, BPL selected Wartsila to build the plant at Station A, and the process of clearing out the decommissioned engines that had been in Station A began in November 2018,” it said.

“Just over a year later – an astonishing feat of which we and our partners are proud – we have a new station pumping state-of-the-art power to the grid and benefitting our customers.”

The power company said that the plant will result in increased reliability, lowered cost of electricity, increased energy and price security, a substantial improvement in the power generation reliability in New Providence, lower fuel charge on their monthly billing and possession of sufficient generating assets to finally close the chapter on rental generation in New Providence.

On November 12, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister said the government will use $70 million of the proceeds from its rate reduction bond to fund the expansion of the Wartsila plant at the Clifton Pier Power Station.

Bannister said the second phase of the Wartsila facility is expected to be on stream by 2021.

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