The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) commits to partner with Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands (LSSVI) and others to increase solar energy capacity and energy efficiency at the campus of the Queen Louise Home for Children on St. Croix, USVI. The primary intended outcomes of this commitment are to decrease electricity costs for this nonprofit agency by offsetting the amount of electricity normally purchased from the utility; and to enhance the organization’s ability to sustain power during service outages with the introduction of a sustainable, resilient source of energy, and to support the programs directly serving the children of the Queen Louise Home.
CFVI will fund the installation of a 70kW solar PV system on the Queen Louise Home, which is expected to result in monthly energy bill savings of $3,200 for LSSVI. The monthly savings will be reinvested in LSSVI’s essential operating costs and programming to benefit the wellbeing of the youth living at the home and children in the Early Head Start program. Partners anticipate that the 144 children and adults that live or work at the facility will benefit from this project and that an additional two temporary jobs will be created during installation.
A solar installation expert will be engaged to strategically identify the most effective options for enhancing current solar energy infrastructure on the campus and evaluate potential investments in energy efficiency and battery storage for backup power. LSSVI will provide on-site oversight for the installation and implementation and will be responsible for the long-term maintenance of the system. Together, the partners will seek matching funds to support energy efficiency upgrades and battery storage.
Phase (1), Efficiency consultation and system planning: LSSVI will meet with solar engineering consultants to discuss optimized system design to reduce utility costs with funds available: February 2019
Phase (2), Additional fundraising: In alignment with the fundraising goals in this commitment, and considering the system design chosen in the previous phase, CFVI and LSSVI will work together to share the proposal with potential funders that could match CFVI’s commitment: March 2019 – April 2019
Phase (3), Materials purchase and procurement: LSSVI will work with solar installers and vendors to order necessary materials and supplies for project: May 2019
Phase (4), Installation: Solar installers begin work on the energy system at the Queen Louise Home: June 2019.
Phase (5), Monitoring and Reinvesting Savings: July 2019 – July 2020.
The Caribbean’s islands are among the world's most vulnerable places when it comes to rising seas, changing weather patterns, and other effects of climate change. Across the region, electric grids are dated, ailing, and overburdened—easily vulnerable to a powerful passing storm.
In September 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the energy infrastructure of the US Virgin Islands, with over 90 percent of the transmission and distribution system destroyed, and more than 20 percent of generation capacity damaged. Power restoration ranged from two to six months for most customers. Even before the hurricanes, high electricity costs and unreliable service were a reality, presenting a challenge to businesses and residents alike, with low-income and vulnerable populations particularly at risk.
The Queen Louise Home, operated by Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands (LSSVI), has provided a safe haven and residential foster care for children in the Virgin Islands since 1904. The center provides care to children who have been abused, abandoned or neglected, provides Early Head Start Services to infants, toddlers and pregnant women, and provide support to youth with special disabilities. The home has capacity for 29 children in the residential home and serves 48 families in the Early Head Start program. The home emerged from Hurricanes Irma and Maria largely unscathed but had to rely on a single diesel generator and small 18kW solar PV system for power. Securing sufficient diesel to operate the facility and keep the home open was a constant challenge to staff. After the storm, insurance costs to LSSVI for the center rose more than 90%, creating unforeseen budgetary challenges. Recent electric bills have been about $6,000 per month, at a minimum.
Additional financial resources would help to increase the scope of work possible, such as increasing the size of the solar PV system, investing in additional efficiency retrofits, and/or investing in a microgrid system design with batteries.
CFVI and LSSVI can offer best practice information gleaned through the implementation of this project. The partners expect that solar energy opportunities will be of particular interest to partners throughout the Caribbean region.