The University of the Virgin Islands entered a new era on Tuesday, July 30, with the signing of a power purchase agreement with New Generation Power (NGP) USVI. NGP will build a three megawatt photovoltaic system that is expected to produce 4.5 million kilowatt-hours annually. UVI President Dr. David Hall and NGP Chairman Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria announced the venture on the UVI St. Thomas Campus on the site where the solar project will be erected. The system will use approximately 4.2 acres on the St. Thomas Campus and 3.9 acres of the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix.
This renewable energy initiative is expected to reduce UVI’s reliance on fossil fuels by at least 50 percent, make UVI more environmentally friendly and provide cutting-edge research in the area of renewable energy for students and faculty. As part of the 20 year agreement, NGP will also provide charging stations for electric vehicles. “It is an exciting moment in the history of UVI and a compelling moment for our future,” said UVI President Dr. David Hall. “Our operating budget at the University has been reduced by $6 million in the last few years and this effort will allow us to try to restore some of what we have lost. This three megawatt facility will be one of the largest of any HBCU in the nation and one of the largest of any university in the country.”
“The sun is a source of power that if properly harnessed can change the paradigm and the way we look at energy in every manner,” said NGP President Phil Fisher. “So here in the U.S. Virgin Islands where sun and sand is prominent and folks from around the world come to enjoy their time here, it is absolutely befitting that we find a way to harness that energy and bring the University and indeed the entire territory from crisis to greatness.”
Dr. Kathuria said the success of the project will make UVI a model for the entire Virgin Islands. “I have been told that energy cost are so high in the Virgin Islands that people must choose between buying medicine or food or paying your energy bills – that must change,” said Dr. Kathuria. “We hope that this project here will be the beginning to help lower the energy infrastructure cost by 50 percent – not only here in the University, but the entire island.”
As part of the agreement, UVI faculty will conduct cutting-edge research through a partnership with NGP and the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation. Galvin Center Director Mohammad Shahidehpour said that the institute has been operating on a microgrid and generates its own power independently. “We used to spend over a million a year just to manage outages,” he said. “Ever since we converted the campus to a microgrid I am glad to report that we have no outages. We have brought that expense to zero.” Dr. Shahidehpour is looking forward to the day that he can return to the University and see the same operation.
Sen. Donald Cole, Virgin Islands Legislature Energy and Environmental Protection Committee chair, was excited that UVI students and faculty would benefit from the agreement. “This historic day allows the University to start the path to becoming self-sufficient for its energy needs,” said Sen. Cole “As we journey through this plan to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and energy demand reduction – it gives us a chance to prepare our students and develop our workforce. Today is a great start towards the path.”
UVI has long ventured into the realm of renewable energy and had originally sought to use wind. Dr. Hall thanked all stakeholders for their vision. He said the UVI is on its way to meet its renewable energy goal. “Our vision is to become completely energy independent,” Dr. Hall said. “Our vision is to become a model for how innovation can be used to address our most crippling challenges. Our vision is to ensure that the Virgin Islands will become a gateway to energy transformation throughout the community and the region.”