BPL’s Wartsila engines in final testing phase

As Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) prepares to bring its new Wartsila engines online later this month, it initiated its final tests on the engines over the weekend, BPL Director of Public Relations Quincy Parker confirmed yesterday.

“The way these things work is the engines are installed, then they’re connected and then the testing and commissioning starts,” Parker said. “They started one machine on Saturday and the start of the other machines, they’re entering the testing and commissioning phase now.

“What that means is these are the last tests that are performed on the engines before they are brought online to ensure… that everything is working as it should.”

The 132-megawatt engine power plant is expected to be brought online on December 15.

Despite a three-month delay, Parker said the $96 million project remains on budget.

The project is expected to bring much-needed relief to the Bahamian people, who have had to endure intermittent load shedding over the past several months.

Parker said electricity bills should decrease in the first quarter of 2020.

“As we begin using these engines as our base load, the increase in efficiency in these engines means that we will be able to do significantly more with significantly less fuel and significantly less energy,” Parker said

“This will bring fuel costs down tremendously and also because of the higher efficiency, bring operating costs down as well. So, customers should see a reduction in their bills fairly early once we start operating out of station A… definitely, I believe, by the first quarter.

“The first reduction in cost will come from the increase in the efficiency of these engines,” he continued. “The second reduction in costs will come once these engines start to burn cheaper fuel. The third reduction in cost will come once the engines start burning LNG, which is even cheaper still.”

The LNG (liquefied natural gas) plant is expected to be complete by the end of 2021.

The new Wartsila plant is expected to come online as the government looks to restructure BPL’s massive legacy debt.

Last month, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister tabled the Electricity Rate Reduction Bond Bill, 2019 in the House of Assembly, which seeks to establish a legislative framework for BPL to raise $650 million through a rate reduction bond.

According to Bannister, $321.1 million of the funds raised will be used to refinance BPL’s debt, $28 million for solar installations on the Family Islands, $15 million to convert family island generation facilities to liquefied natural gas, $15 million for fiberglass cooling pipe replacements, $30 million for an advanced metering infrastructure project and $6 million for system reinforcement and customer connections.

Additionally, he said $48.1 million will be used for 132-kilovolt transmission and substation upgrades, $34.9 million for line upgrades and extensions, $24.7 million for other substation upgrades and $14.3 million for 34.5-kilovolt line upgrades.

During debate on the bill last week, Bannister also revealed that the government will use $70 million of the proceeds from its rate reduction bond to fund the expansion of the Wartsila plant at BPL’s Clifton location.

“The phase two expansion of the Wartsila generation facility will bring an additional 90 megawatts of capacity online for a total of 222 megawatts,” Bannister said during a communication in the House of Assembly.

“Added capacity will eliminate the need for rolling load shedding/brownouts,” Bannister said.

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Krystel Brown

Krystel covers breaking news for The Nassau Guardian. Krystel also manages The Guardian’s social media pages. She joined The Nassau Guardian in 2007 as a staff reporter, covering national news. She was promoted to online editor in May 2017. Education: Benedict College, BA in Mass Communications

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