Guam Power Authority Taking Steps Toward More Renewable Energy Projects

In addition to new traditional power plant, more photovoltaic installations to come

By John I Borja

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, May 14, 2017) – Guam Power Authority is moving forward with projects to promote renewable energy at a time when it’s crucial for the switch to be made.

It’s an effort done almost two years after the main power grid was rocked by an explosion and fire at the Cabras power plant in 2015.

The investigation into what caused the explosion is still ongoing. GPA General Manager John Benavente said the agency’s insurance adjuster is working with the power plant insurers and cannot comment on the investigation until a settlement is made.

Meanwhile the removal of Cabras engine 4, which was declared a total loss, is underway. Cabras engine 3 and other plant auxiliaries affected by the explosion are going through preservation work, Benavente said.

That leaves Cabras engines 1 and 2 in a power plant that supplies much of the island’s electricity. Thanks to a fleet of smaller generation units, the power grid is still able to function at a capacity that keeps the lights on. Still, the engines can’t last forever.

“The continued operation of the Cabras Steam plant provides major reliability challenges because of its complexity and age,” Benavente said. Because of the challenges, he said it’s important for a new power plant to be finished in the next five years.

Simon Sanchez from the Consolidated Commission on Utilities said the larger generators typically last between 40 and 50 years. Five years from now, Cabras engines 1 and 2 would be around 46 years old.

Keeping power on

Along with the smaller generators to maintain power capacity, GPA also is working to have two combustion turbines fully operational.

The Dededo Combustion Turbine power plant, which is expected to be commissioned this month, is undergoing testing to help meet the power demand, Benavente said. GPA noted that it is waiting for an operating permit from the Guam Environmental Protection Agency.

The power plant, which has two units, generates a total of 40 megawatts of energy, according to Benavente. The turbines will work in place of Cabras engine 1 when it is overhauled. The estimated $9.7 million overhaul is scheduled for July, according to Pacific Daily News files.

With the Dededo power plant completion, power generation reserves would be close to where it was before the Cabras explosion, Benavente said.

GPA customers could still experience short outages whenever one of the larger generators of the system trips. The intermittent outages, lasting between 5 and 30 minutes, are needed to help restore power back to the grid. Otherwise, Guam would experience an islandwide blackout that could last for about six hours, Benavente said.

To significantly decrease the amount of short outages, GPA will implement an energy storage system to back up the main power grid.

This $35 million energy storage system will generate 40 megawatts of power. GPA expects the battery system to be operational around this time next year.

New power plant

Benavente also said the agency has received approval from the Consolidated Commission on Utilities and the Public Utilities Commission to build a new power plant that could generate 180 megawatts of power.

The targeted commissioning date for the new power plant is April 2022. Benavente said GPA is planning to have a bid out in August.

Once the power plant is complete, GPA can retire Cabras engines 1 and 2, Sanchez said. The new generation would be able to replace all four Cabras units.

GPA is looking at soliciting land in Dededo, the village with the fastest growing population on Guam, Sanchez said. It’s also ideal to have the power plant near Guam Waterworks Authority’s northern wastewater treatment plant because the treatment plant can help cool down the generators, he said.

Solar power

The new plant will work in synergy with solar photovoltaic renewables, which would save the agency money on fuel costs in the long term. More solar PV farms will be installed in the coming years, adding more than 100 megawatts of energy, Benavente said.

GPA is focusing on solar projects for now. Sanchez said the agency does not expect significant contributions from wind power because of Guam’s susceptibility to typhoons.

Renewable energy is not 100 percent reliable, especially with Guam’s weather, so traditional fuel would still be used on baseload generation to keep power up all the time, Sanchez said.

GPA recently announced it will be entering into a land lease agreement with the U.S. Navy to use some of the Navy’s properties for solar PV farms.

Seven pieces of Navy-owned land totaling 164 acres would be used to generate 40 megawatts of solar power, according to Benavente.

With all these projects in motion, ratepayers should not be affected financially, according to Sanchez. GPA projects there won’t be a need to increase rates for the next five years.

Pacific Daily News
Copyright © 2017 Guam Pacific Daily News. All Rights Reserved

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