Thursday, March 3, 2011
GB Power owner to assess Abaco electric cable link
Canadian energy giant, Emera, will travel to Abaco next week to assess the potential for creating a power cable link between the island and Grand Bahama, where it owns an 80.4 per cent stake in the Grand Bahama Power Company, creating energy "synergies" for the wider Bahamas.
It will also gather information to help make a decision on whether it will take up the Government's invitation to get involved in the "urgently" required upgrade of the transmission line from the Wilson City power plant to Marsh Harbour, BEC's chairman, Michael Moss, said yesterday.
The Government/BEC, and general contractors Man Diesel, have been accused of overlooking the upgrade to the transmission line, which is needed to enable Marsh Harbour to get the full benefits from the newly-constructed Wilson City plant's enhanced power supply.
The business community in Abaco has been particularly concerned that without the line, the island will again experience the disastrous power outages that further stymied the tourism-dependent economy last summer during already trying times.
In January, the minister with responsibility for the rnvironment, Earl Deveaux, told a town meeting in Marsh Harbour that the matter is a priority for the Government, and said the contract to upgrade the line from one which is presently able to carry 14-16 megawatts (MW) of power to 60 megawatts of power, would be shortly put out to tender.
President of the Abaco Chamber of Commerce, Michael Albury, said he felt more satisfied after the meeting that focused attention was being brought to bear on the situation.
Mr Moss told Tribune Business yesterday that he approached Emera to see if they would be interested in assisting BEC with the timely completion of the line.
"I have asked them if they have the kind of resources to help us get it in the shortest possible time. We have installed 48 mw of generation at Wilson City. The line from Wilson City to Marsh Harbour, where the bulk of the Abaco load exists, can only carry a load of around 14-16 MW, so we're in process of upgrading that line to 60 MW. We would like to get that line completed before summer peak comes up," he said.
Mr Moss said that rather than participating in the actual construction of the line, he envisages that Emera could provide some kind of project management resources.
If the transmission line is not ready in time to allow for Wilson City to feed the high summer power demand of Abaco, primarily in Marsh Harbour, then the power supply will need to be supplemented from the old Marsh Harbour power plant until the line is complete.
It is for this reason that BEC is shortly set to spend just over$500,000 to overhaul three generation units at the Marsh Harbour plant, thus avoiding embarrassment should the delayed transmission line not be ready by the time the typically high summer electricity demand comes around.
The upgrade of the units to a condition in which they would be able to provide a more reliable power supply than they have in the past - it was the failure of generation at the Marsh Harbour plant that, among other things, precipitated the decision to develop the Wilson City plant - is anticipated to take around 60 days once it begins on Monday. That would mean the units, two 4.4 MW units and a 2.5 MW unit, would be ready for use again in May.
Mr Moss said the estimated $560,000 cost of upgrading the old units would "not be considered a waste", since it is likely they will be redeployed elsewhere by BEC once Wilson City takes over full responsibility for supplying Abaco's power demands.
"We want to make sure we do not face the embarrassment of last year, so we are making sure they are as reliable as possible and that the (Marsh Harbour) plant is in tip top shape in case it's called upon," said Mr Moss.
In the meantime, reliability tests on the last two 12 megawatt generation units at Wilson City will take place between March 3-10.
Part of Emera's interest in exploring the possibility of linking Abaco and Grand Bahama via a submarine power cable is to allow for either island to supplement the other should shortfalls in generation occur in the future, said Mr Moss.
The company remains interested in potentially taking on a more substantial role as an operational manager or, eventually, an owner of a privatised BEC. It submitted a proposal in this regard last December, but no further developments have taken place in this regard, Tribune Business understands.