Barbados Light & Power Company (BLPC) customers can expect savings on their electricity bills as a result of lower electricity production costs when the company’s new 33 megawatt (MW) power generating facility is in full operation.
In addition, customers can expect fewer outages with the operation of the modern and more reliable plant.
The over $130 million Clean Energy Bridge (CEB), which is located at the company’s generation site in Trents, St Lucy, is expected to be commissioned by late March and go into operation “shortly after”, producing just over 27 per cent of the island’s annual energy needs.
Project Manager for the CEB project Dave Skeete said the medium-speed diesel plant is a bridging solution between fossil fuel and renewable energy for electricity production. It will replace some of the older electricity generation plants as the island transitions to becoming 100 per cent reliable on renewable energy sources.
Pointing to several factors that impact electricity prices including international oil prices, Skeete said it was difficult to say what the savings will be to the company or to customers, but explained that the new generation plant will have an impact on the fuel charge.
“In the short-term, this plant once it goes into service, will keep the production cost of electricity down by being more fuel efficient. These savings will be passed to the consumer. The plant will also be a more reliable plant. So our customers can expect fewer outages,” said Skeete.
“In the longer-term, it will serve as a back-up plant to cater for those periods when renewable sources have lower output,” he added. The clean energy plant is expected to replace some of the operations at the Spring Garden Substation and Generation Power plant.
In November 2019, the company’s approximately 130,000 customers woke up to an island-wide blackout, and while power was fully restored around 11 p.m. that same day, the next day the utility company reported that one of its large diesel engines shut down due to a stuck fuel pump overnight, leaving customer again without electricity for several hours.
In early January 2020, a more than three-hour power outage, which affected sections of St Philip, St John and St George was as a result from a fault on the distribution system at the BLPC’s Hampton, St Philip plant.
Again in December last year, it was reported that a “fault” near the company’s Spring Garden location resulted in an island-wide outage.
Making it clear that some outages could be caused by things outside the company’s control including fallen trees and accidents, Skeete noted that outages that were due to a technical issue at the power plant would be significantly less.
“Having a more reliable plant will improve the service we provide because there will be fewer outages compared to an older plant. Occasionally, when you get outages it is because of a technical problem at one of the older plants that brings it out. With a newer plant the likelihood of that is reduced. Additionally, with this plant we have a lot of redundancy built into it,” he said.
Following the necessary studies, work on the CEB project, which is adjacent to the utility’s 10MW solar farm, started in early 2018, and was carried out by several local, regional and international contractors.
The new electricity generation plant is expected to create employment for about 26 people once operational.
Skeete said the clean energy plant was built to withstand a category five hurricane and is also able to withstand a major earthquake.
The new plant consists of several environmental safety features relating to noise pollution, emission of CO2, and fire prevention and containment. “The plant is more efficient than the older plants which it will replace, so that means that for every unit of energy that the plant produces, it uses less fuel and it would also run on a cleaner fuel than we would have been running on with our older stations. So there will be a reduction in emissions compared to an equivalent capacity of an older plant,” said Skeete.
There will be ongoing monitoring to ensure compliance for noise and emission stipulations.
The company will also monitor air quality upstream and downstream of the plant once it goes into service.
The modern facility, which is modular built, consists of an electrical room, a control room, fuel treatment house, storage tanks, mechanical and electrical workshops, a warehouse and an administration building.
Skeete said there will be ongoing training of BLPC staff operating the plant, pointing out that several training courses have already been completed.