A $3 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) High Energy Cost Grant Program will be used to enhance a three-megawatt solar installation project at the University of the Virgin Islands. The grant is designed to provide financial assistance for the improvement of energy generation, transmission and distribution facilities servicing eligible rural communities. It was awarded to Veriown Energy, whose parent company New Generation Power entered into a 20-year power purchase agreement with UVI in August 2013. The grant will allow Veriown the ability to deploy a microgrid application on UVI’s campuses on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Fifty-five applicants from around the U.S. competed for the $11 million USDA High Energy Cost Grant. Together, Veriown and Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) had the highest rated proposal and were awarded $3 million to apply to the project.
The average electricity consumer in the Virgin Islands pays more than 50 cents per kilowatt-hour – four times more than consumers on the U.S. mainland.
“Because of this grant, the University of the Virgin Islands, with the tremendous assistance of Veriown Energy and Illinois Institute of Technology, will be in a position to become energy independent in an environment where the cost of energy is extremely high. This partnership will catapult UVI into the category of the leading universities in smart microgrid technology,” said UVI President David Hall.
The relationship between Veriown and Dr. Mohammad Shahidehpour, a leader in advanced energy studies and microgrid development at IIT’s Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation, blossomed five years ago after they discussed the true potential of what a microgrid system could do on a campus setting.
“This grant signifies a strong synergy between the government, academia and the energy industry for promoting state-of-the-art research and development on sustainable energy, energy efficiency and microgrids which can serve as a role model for advancing the United States’ leadership in the global energy arena,” said Dr. Shahidehpour.
According to Steve Johanns, CEO of Veriown, a university is the optimal place to develop a microgrid system, not just because of its campus setting, but because it can be an institution to foster and train our youth in innovative microgrid solutions that could change how energy is harnessed for future generations to come.
“This grant will have a real and significant impact on the total cost of energy for the University of the Virgin Islands,” said Johanns. “It should not go unnoticed that these savings allow universities like UVI the ability to put the money where it is needed the most – with teachers and students enhancing learning environments.”
The grant follows just weeks after a $30 million donation from New Generation Power, a global renewable energy company, to UVI to help develop an LCME accredited medical school to help transform the quality of life throughout the region.