St Kitts microgrid breaks ground

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Construction of the solar + storage microgrid facility on St Kitts has commenced and the Nevis Geothermal project advances.

The St Kitts facility to be comprised of 37.5MW solar PV and a 14.8MW/45.7MWh lithium-ion battery energy storage system is a major development for the nation and a landmark for the region. When completed, it will be the largest solar + storage operation in the Caribbean.

The system will replace around one-third of the current diesel generated baseload power. In the first year of operation, approximately 61,300MWh of electricity are projected with a 41,500 metric ton reduction of CO2 emissions.

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The storage system will be used to help meet the power demand when the solar PV is not generating. It also will improve the grid stability and serve as a backup to the remaining diesel generators.

The $70 million project in the hands of the state-owned St. Kitts Electric Company (SKELEC) has been under development for almost two years. Swiss storage solution provider Leclanché was selected as the prime engineering, procurement and construction contractor. The company will provide a turnkey solar plus storage solution together with its main subcontractor the Spain headquartered Grupotec.

Leclanché will own and operate the facility under a build, own and operate model through its SOLEC Power Ltd subsidiary with partner Solrid Ltd. SKELEC has secured a 20-year power purchase agreement at flat rate over the entire period, with no upfront capital outlay and looking to achieve significant long-term savings to the projected diesel generation costs.

“Today’s groundbreaking marks a significant milestone for our citizens, tourist economy, our broader business community and indeed the entire Caribbean region, despite the delays caused by COVID-19,” said St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Timothy Harris.

“This visionary project will help secure our energy independence, provide long-term price stability and reduce our reliance on diesel fuel.”

The facility is being built on government-owned land adjacent to the current SKELEC power station above the capital, Basseterre. The construction is expected to take about 18 months with completion in the first half of 2022.

Nevis geothermal

Meanwhile over on Nevis the 10MW Nevis Geothermal project is starting to take shape under the Schlumberger, Thermal Energy Partners JV, GeoFrame Energy.

According to the last formal project update site clearing was completed in early May, with grading to prepare for the drill rigs under way along with work at the laydown area near Long Point Port.

The latest report in the local press has Nevis Premier Mark Brantley announcing an ongoing renegotiation of the project arrangements with a lowering of the electricity price from US$0.19/kWh to $0.15/kWh and hopes to lower it even further.

“I think we are making good progress. The piece of the puzzle that was always the bugbear was the financing,” Brantley was reported as saying at a recent press conference.

It was previously negotiated that the Nevis Island Administration would get 12.5% equity in the project in addition to a 10% royalty. The aim is for a greater percentage of the savings to be passed on to consumers.

Other project news is the addition of French renewable producer Albioma to the company lineup, although its role has not been specified. The company is a specialist in biomass and solar PV and brings experience from the French islands in the Caribbean as well as the Indian Ocean islands.