Under pressure due to an ageing generation plant and three weeks after an island-wide blackout affected the country over two days, the sole electric utility company has sealed a deal that will result in the installation of 33 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity.
The Barbados Light & Power Company Ltd (BL&P), which experienced the crippling power failure in early November, announced today that negotiations for the purchase of a 33MW medium-speed diesel power plant was finalized with the Finland-based energy company Wärtsilä.
Managing Director of the BL&P Roger Blackman did not say if all the regulatory and planning permissions necessary for the project were granted, but said in a release on Friday that the new system would be installed “by mid-2020”.
The approximately $100 million investment comes at a time when the country is moving full steam ahead with plans to make the country dependent fully on renewable sources of energy.
Blackman gave the assurance that while the new power plant would be equipped to operate on heavy fuel oil, it will be capable of being retrofitted to burn natural gas.
“Indeed, even after the island achieves the renewable energy targets, we believe that the Clean Energy Bridge will be necessary as a back-up for grid reliability and resiliency,” said Blackman.
“We’re pleased that we have been able to reach this milestone in the project and, with the support of the Government of Barbados. This power plant, or Clean Energy Bridge project, will replace retiring generating capacity and reduce fuel imports and carbon emissions while supporting the transition to 100 per cent renewables,” said Blackman.
Following the November 18 blackout which affected the utility’s approximately 130,000 customers, Blackman attributed the incident to contaminated fuel and aging generator equipment, half of which he said was past its retirement age.
Vice President of Wärtsilä Caribbean Inc. Rodney George said his company was pleased to be selected as the engineering, procurement and construction contractor for the project, which is expected to last some 18 months.
“Wärtsilä will also support Light & Power by way of a three-year maintenance contract for spare parts and maintenance services. This includes Wärtsilä asset diagnostic services, which will provide Light & Power with continuous follow up and support to allow for operating the assets in an efficient and safe way,” said George.
He explained that the power generating plant would consist of four high efficiency Wärtsilä 32 generating sets, with fast starting and loading capabilities.
“These attributes will complement Light & Power’s strategy for increasing renewable penetration on the electrical grid while ensuring system stability,” he said.