Richard Branson’s BMR Energy Sets Out To Restore Hurricane-Damaged Solar

BMR Energy, a developer, owner and operator of clean energy projects in the Caribbean and Latin America, has acquired from NRG Energy Inc. a 4 MW St. Croix solar facility that was significantly damaged during Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

The company will take over the power purchase agreement and restoration efforts of the ground-mounted project.

Along with the physical damage it inflicted on the Caribbean region, Hurricane Maria also curbed renewable energy supply in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), explains BMR. The St. Croix solar project has been running at less than 45% capacity for nearly a year, and the reduced generation of damaged renewable energy facilities puts a strain on the utility’s supply planning and the ability to meet its clean energy goals.

According to BMR, 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.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, which bought BMR Energy in 2016, works extensively in the region with a network of partners. Alongside the prime minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, Branson will be hosting an event on Aug. 9 championing updates on the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator. The accelerator brings together 26 Caribbean countries and 40 private-sector partners to help transform the regional economy by fast-tracking sound public and private investment that supports climate action and economic growth through sustainable development, says BMR.

“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,” says Branson. “The world needs to find ways to introduce more resilient clean energy. The Caribbean has an abundance of clean energy sources, and BMR are taking great strides towards helping create zero-carbon energy supplies for years to come.”

“Restoring the solar facility in Spanish Town, St. Croix, to full capacity generation is core to our mission of supporting clean energy infrastructure in the Caribbean and Latin America,” says Bruce Levy, CEO of BMR Energy. “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.”

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 solar site. A construction manager is already on-site repairing damage and replacing inverters. BMR’s goal with the restoration process is to get the site restored for the most competitive price – and as quickly as possible to accommodate V.I.WAPA’s planning needs.

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 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,” says Lawrence J. 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 percent fossil-fuel reduction by 2025.”

BMR notes its restoration efforts have incorporated local labor and several local contracting partners. When restored to its full capacity, the St. Croix solar facility will generate power for approximately 1,600 homes. The company expects to restore the solar facility to full capacity by October.

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