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Saipan output cut to boost neighbor

By Moneth Deposa SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, June 16, 2010) - The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. slightly reduced the capacity of one of its power plants on Saipan to help augment the power generation needs of Rota. CUC expects to save more than US$70,000 on its monthly operational costs with this effort.

CUC assistant executive director Abe Utu Malae said two engines at Saipan’s Power Plant 4 were transferred to Rota for its temporary use. This leaves the plant with seven engines and reduces the amount of power being produced by 4 megawatts.

He said it was critical to boost Rota’s capacity because its two existing engines are operating below par. The engines are expected to remain on Rota until the end of the year when two new engines are expected to be in place.

CUC has already received funding from federal agencies to buy the needed engines for Rota but Malae said it will take awhile before this happens as the contract has yet to be awarded.

Once the two new engines are commissioned, possibly in November, CUC will decide whether to retain the two engines from Power Plant 4 on Rota or return them to Saipan, according to Malae.

When asked if the transfer of the two engines won’t affect power generation on Saipan, Malae assured that Power Plant 4 is stable at the moment.

As of today, Saipan’s power plants are producing a total of 56.8 MW of power, with a peak load of 44MW, he said.

"We reduced the capacity at Power Plant 4 by 4 MW, but it is okay for now. It is more critical to have the capacity on Rota," he said.

Malae disclosed that one reason for moving the engines from Power Plant 4 to Rota was the "too high" cost of buying energy from the Rota Resort.

"The cost of purchasing energy from Rota Resort is too high," he said. "That’s the primary consideration. But excellent reliability goes only so far when you don’t have enough cash to pay for it and you don’t have enough cash when you sell electricity for less than it costs to buy it from the supplier."

Saipan Tribune learned that, although there are three engines available on Rota, only the recently overhauled one supplies power to the island’s two feeders. CUC plans to overhaul or replace the two other units.

CUC said it is determined to meet customers’ demand for a reliable power service that is of high quality and has fair value. After fixing the problems at its power plants, CUC plans to work on "green power" or alternative energy sources.

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