Disaster Response

NYPA to assist VI WAPA with grid rebuild, modernization

New York State will provide technical assistance to the U.S. Virgin Islands for its ongoing efforts to rebuild and modernize the islands' electric grid.

A recovery effort by the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (VI WAPA) has been underway to restore and improve electric infrastructure and VI WAPA is now seeking assistance from the New York Power Authority through the American Public Power Association's mutual aid process.

The U.S. Virgin Islands' power systems were heavily damaged when two Category 5 hurricanes—Irma and Maria—made landfall in September 2017.

A memorandum of understanding between NYPA and VI WAPA was signed Jan. 4 to put in place the needed mechanisms for New York to provide technical consulting support for the electric infrastructure rebuild.

"NYPA is standing ready to provide technical support for the rebuild and modernization of the U.S. Virgin Islands' electric grid,” said Gil Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO.The mutual assistance process is an excellent, non-profit method to leverage the expertise of fellow utilities. The Power Authority is eager to provide support to WAPA to assist in its development of a modern, resilient electric system."

"The American Public Power Association is excited to see the agreement between US Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority and the New York Power Authority,” said Mike Hyland, Senior Vice President, Engineering Services, at the American Public Power Association. “This is another example of the breadth and effectiveness of our national public power mutual aid network. We connect members to help not only in times of storm but also in times of calm so we can share lessons learned and be prepared for the next disaster."

A news release from New York Gov. Mario Cuomo’s office said that VI WAPA “will make investments in upgrading the island's generation, transmission and distribution systems to improve reliability, as well as incorporate a practical approach to alternative energy resources—such as wind and solar—to help reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.”

VI WAPA is seeking support in its rebuild and modernization effort in five key categories:

  • The design, construction, operation, maintenance and repair of VI WAPA's power generation, transmission and distribution system, including the integration of renewable and other alternative energy generation sources, energy storage and demand management; 
  • The development of methodologies, policies and corporate governance practices for the improvement of power grid reliability and resiliency with respect to storms and other catastrophic, environmental and economic threats;
  • The study and development of economically viable best practices to harden the power grid against likely major weather events in the future, including the use of new designs, materials, system monitoring and control methods to prevent or minimize the impact of outages and power grid damage, reduce repair costs, and shorten recovery times; 
  • The development of improved corporate capacity and support services, including supply chain sustainability, physical and cyber security management, critical contractor access and availability, repair and recovery equipment, available inventory materials, internal and external communications, and response and mobilization planning for significant events; and 
  • Potential strategies for long-term infrastructure upgrade financing and economic partnering with customers, suppliers, investors and financiers.

VI WAPA and the American Public Power Association held a storm preparedness and resilience workshop August 23-24 in St. Thomas, VI. The event — supported by a grant from the Department of Energy’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response — highlighted lessons learned and improvement opportunities in the wake of the 2017 hurricane season.