Renewable Energy Sources Come Back to the Caribbean

August 5, 2021

Highlights

  • Schneider Electric redesigned, rebuilding solar PV systems destroyed in St. Thomas, St. Croix after devastating 2017 hurricanes, adding more efficient technologies in Puerto Rico

  • Innovative redesign phase included 3D rendering models to test the strength of redesigned systems to withstand Category 5 hurricane wind speeds

  • Re-enable electric savings guaranteed at the onset of energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs)

Schneider Electric, energy and sustainability expert, today announced work on projects with the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to redesign and rebuild renewable energy infrastructure in federal buildings in the Caribbean that were destroyed by Category 5 hurricanes in 2017. The projects focus on rebuilding photovoltaic (PV) systems that delivered renewable solar energy to St. Thomas and St. Croix, as well as adding more efficient technology in Puerto Rico, making the islands’ energy infrastructures more resilient and eliminating nearly 1GWH in annual electric production capability.

Schneider Electric’s innovative redesign and rebuild on the projects will make the PV systems able to withstand Category 5 hurricane wind speeds to create sustainable energy sources for the remote facilities while delivering guaranteed cost savings. The company’s efforts align with the Biden Administration’s recent efforts to direct more funding to communities for pre-disaster mitigation resources as the severity and cost of extreme weather events continues ravaging the nation.

“Just as people and businesses are experiencing the devastating impact of extreme weather events, federal agencies are seeing how vulnerable they are to the effects of climate change,” said Alison Rucker, Federal Performance Contracting Manager, Schneider Electric. “Schneider Electric is committed to continue finding innovative ways to help our federal partners invest in technologies and strategies that strengthen their critical infrastructure, save energy costs and build resilience to prepare for future natural disasters.”

In 2017, several Category 5 hurricanes with winds over 180 miles per hour destroyed solar PV systems that were initially implemented on the islands as part of energy savings performance contract (ESPC) projects with Schneider Electric. When the PV systems were rendered unusable, the USCG and GSA faced challenges with recouping the energy savings promised through the infrastructure improvements and became dependent on the islands’ unreliable energy infrastructures.

Through the $5.5 million contract with GSA, Schneider Electric is re-enabling the production of nearly $1 million in annual guaranteed electric generation from the original 2012 and 2013 projects. A $1.2 million contract with the USCG will re-enable production of guaranteed electric generation from the original 2011 project. All the projects are scheduled to be completed ahead of the 2022 hurricane season.

“As we see increasingly unpredictable weather continue to plague regions like the Caribbean, we need to be able to adapt on the fly to accommodate how it’s impacting our projects,” said David Phillippe, Program Development Manager, Schneider Electric, who worked with GSA on this project. “Understanding the changing needs of our customers and ensuring we’re delivering on those needs is of the utmost importance.”

Creating the new standard

At the beginning of the project, Schneider Electric worked closely with GSA to determine where the point of failure was and engaged with other government agencies to draw conclusions that would inform the proposals for repair work. From there, Schneider Electric developed a specific set of design guidelines that accounted for a broad range of factors, including specific location topography, wind speeds, associated loads, aerodynamics of the structure and dynamic effects. Schneider Electric also worked with Jacobs Engineering to create a 3D rendering of the new project that applied the pressures of Category 5 hurricanes to indicate points of failure as the repair proposal was being drawn up, leading to a repair design built to withstand severe weather conditions.

The USCG was able to salvage some of the solar panels that were not initially destroyed throughout hurricane season. To replace the panels that were destroyed, Schneider Electric created new solar PV models that were able to increase capacity. The original project provided roof repairs on houses and childcare buildings that benefited federal employee residents, as well as HVAC upgrades, LED lighting retrofits and building automation system upgrades.

“It was a team effort to ensure that the new projects would meet the changing needs brought on by climate change,” said Cesar Cortes, Project Manager, Schneider Electric. “We were up to the challenge of rebuilding the projects and continuing our partnerships with the USCG and GSA.”

Implementing the project and re-enabling savings

Schneider Electric has been a trusted partner to GSA and USCG since 2010, which helped the company create programs that were specific to the needs of the agencies. The projects will also put the savings originally promised at the onset of the project back on track. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, the projects are helping support the local economy, creating upwards of 50 jobs across both agencies.

In total, Schneider Electric has been awarded more than $895 million in federal ESPCs and UESCs (Utility Energy Services Contracts), delivering infrastructure modernization and energy improvements and services for federal agencies. ESPCs are financial vehicles that help publicly-funded entities make capital improvements over longer payback periods with many long-term benefits, including improved facility efficiency, more comfortable environment, financial management and environmental protection.

For more information on how Schneider Electric helps public entities tackle their top priorities with energy efficiency, please visit www.schneider-electric.us/enable.

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