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15 megawatts be added to island power supply

By Kristi Eaton

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, March 31, 2009)—The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. is expected to unveil today two overhauled engines, providing an additional 15 megawatts of power to the island.

In a memorandum, CUC executive director Antonio Muña invited House Speaker Arnold Palacios and Senate President Pete Reyes to join Gov. Benigno Fitial at the ceremony, which will take place at 2pm at the Power Plant 1 facility in Lower Base.

The rehabilitation of the two engines is one of the first steps the utility agency expects to take as it prepares for September, when the one-year contract for the emergency Aggreko generators concludes. Under the $6 million contract, CUC has been renting 15 megawatts of power from Aggreko, ending the blackouts that had been plaguing the island for several months prior.

CUC must inform Aggreko by June whether it opts to extend the contract for another six months. But last week, Muña reiterated his earlier statement that CUC will not need to extend the contract.

By June, Muña said, CUC's Power Plant 1 would produce approximately 40 megawatts of power. The plant is currently producing 9 megawatts. The two engines commissioned today-engines 3 and 7-will add 15 megawatts of power. With 14 megawatts coming from independently operated Power Plant 4 and six megawatts from Power Plant 2, the total of 60 megawatts should be more than enough for the island, Muña said.

"With the timeline falling into place, and the engines coming into place, governor, I think we can confidently report that our power productions issues have been resolved," the executive director said last week at a news briefing.

Why was CUC able to rehabilitate the engines this time around?

Muña said the effort had already begun prior to 2006, when the administration came into office, but the $5 million Fitial secured from the Office of Insular Affairs last fall was the final piece of the puzzle.

Adding that to the $10 million secured in 2007, the executive director said, "in 2008 we came full circle." It was a $15 million project that took three years to come to fruition, he said. If $15 million had been available from the start, it might have happened faster, "but it is what it is," he added.

Fitial, for his part, said the effort has been successful simply because of the four M's of production: money, manpower, management and machinery.

Also, he added, Wallon Young, who was hired as deputy director for Utilities System Rehabilitation, helped CUC tremendously. For example, he was able to repair crankshafts, usually costing $1.5 million, for less than $100,000, Fitial said.

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