Published On: Wed, Aug 8th, 2018

Virgin Group-backed company buys and is rebuilding hurricane-damaged Caribbean clean energy project

virgin-solar-farm-damageNEW YORK - Richard Branson’s Virgin Group is revamping a hurricane-damaged solar facility in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI).

BMR Energy, a developer, owner and operator of clean energy projects in the Caribbean and Latin America – which the Virgin Group bought in 2016 – announced today that it has acquired a 4-megawatt, fixed ground-mount solar facility from NRG Energy, Inc. in St Croix, USVI, that was damaged during Hurricane Maria in September last year. The company will take over the power purchase agreement and restoration efforts of the solar farm, which sustained significant damage.

Along with the physical damage last year’s powerful hurricanes inflicted on the Caribbean, Hurricane Maria also curbed renewable energy supply in the USVI.

The St Croix project has been running at less than 45 per cent capacity for nearly a year. The reduced generation of damaged renewable energy facilities puts strain on the utility’s supply planning and ability to meet its clean energy goals.

The rehabilitation of renewable energy projects is part of a larger movement among the private sector, heads of state, public agencies and international institutions to build a cleaner, more resilient energy future for the Caribbean.

“BMR Energy is an expert in developing clean energy. The team also acts as a long-term partner and is working to make a huge difference in the region,” said Branson, Virgin Group founder. “The world needs to find ways to introduce more resilient clean energy. The Caribbean has an abundance of clean energy sources, and BMR is taking great strides towards helping create zero-carbon energy supplies for years to come.”

CEO of BMR Energy Bruce Levy said restoring the solar facility in Spanish Town, St Croix to full capacity generation is core to the company’s mission of supporting clean energy infrastructure in the Caribbean and Latin America.

“This acquisition is an opportunity to show how to build for stronger hurricane resiliency and offer greater value to the region. As the prolonged restoration in these hurricane-devastated areas highlights – with Puerto Rico being the most extreme example – we must remain committed to rebuilding our infrastructure right and successfully maintaining projects through long-term ownership,” he said.

The USVI solar plant represents an entrance into a third market for BMR, which currently has projects operating in two other countries in the Caribbean and Latin America—Jamaica and Guatemala.

BMR is working closely with The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (V.I.WAPA), the local utility and power purchaser of the energy generated from the site, on its continued recovery from the effects of the 2017 hurricanes as a new hurricane season begins.

A construction manager is already on-site repairing damage and replacing inverters at the St Croix solar facility. BMR’s goals with the restoration process are to get the site restored for the most competitive price and as quickly as possible to accommodate V.I.WAPA’s planning needs. BMR is set to receive approval from the utility to purchase another hurricane-damaged USVI solar project in the coming weeks.

“For jurisdictions in the Caribbean looking to meet clean energy goals, building hurricane-resilient renewable energy infrastructure is crucial to long-term success,” said Lawrence Kupfer, executive director and CEO of V.I.WAPA. “We look to these resiliency-focused projects and our work with BMR Energy as a critical part in our goal to reach 60 per cent fossil fuel reduction by 2025.”

BMR’s restoration efforts have incorporated local labour and several local contracting partners. When restored to its full capacity, the St Croix solar facility will generate power for approximately 1,600 homes.

BMR Energy expects full restoration by October.

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