To address the need for reliable and resilient power in critical facilities, Expedia Group, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Tom Secunda, Clinton Climate Initiative, Construction for Change, and Sextant Foundation commit to providing solar power to one site on St. Thomas and two sites on St. John. Solar power will be installed at a Family Resource Center in St. Thomas, and at the Gifft Hill School and St. John Christian Academy in St. John. These solar installations will ensure a reliable, sustainable source of energy for the communities they serve. Each system will be individualized based on the needs of each site and will also cover the critical load at each facility to carry out its essential functions. For example, in the event of another hurricane or natural disaster, if grid power is not available, these systems will keep the lights, fans, and refrigerators running, and allow local residents to power essential communication devices.
Currently, the majority of students attending Gifft Hill School receive scholarships, and the cost savings from the solar will allow the school to provide additional scholarships to students. The solar will also enhance an ongoing project to create a designated as an official emergency shelter at Gifft Hill School.
Expedia Group will provide the funding for the procurement and installation of the solar equipment on the three locations. The Clinton Climate Initiative will serve as overall program manager, Construction for Change will serve as the construction project manager, and Sextant Foundation as the technical experts. Bloomberg Philanthropies and Tom Secunda will serve as partners and advisors on the project. The installer will be determined at a future date after an RFP has been issued. Bloomberg Philanthropies and Tom Secunda will serve as partners and advisors on the project. The installer will be determined at a future date after an RFP has been issued. In the coming months, a detailed engineering and electrical site assessment will be conducted. Full design will be completed, solar equipment will be ordered, shipped, and installed by Q1 2019.
End of December 2018: Complete engineering and electrical site assessments and issue RFP for installers.
January 2019: RFP complete and installer selected (Construction for Change or USVI local).
End of January 2019: Procurement of solar equipment. Product shipped to USVI.
February 2019: Equipment installation begins.
March – April 2019: Complete installation.
In September 2017, two Category 5 Hurricanes tore through the U.S. Virgin Islands within a span of 14 days. On September 6, Irma made landfall in St. Thomas and St. John. On September 20, Hurricane Maria struck St. Croix. The storms destroyed much of the natural environment of the islands, demolished homes and businesses, and destroyed critical infrastructure including the communications network and the electrical grid. More than 90% of aboveground power lines were damaged and more than 50% of poles were completely knocked down. Total service outages lasted for several weeks. All three major hospitals and critical care centers across the territory were damaged. Both the Gifft Hill School and the St. John Christian Academy were without power for four months and The Family Resource Center in St. Thomas was without power for ten months. This especially affected the Family Resource Center on St. Thomas as it was identified as a high priority by local partners because of its critical work supporting survivors of family violence.
The U.S. Virgin Islands remains in urgent need of reliable and resilient power, and there remains a widespread fear for lack of preparedness. Furthermore, with the potential for diesel shortages, landslides, and flooding, generators are not a reliable nor sustainable solution. Solar projects have been recognized as a potential means to restore vital electricity to critical facilities such as schools and community centers, that serve residents year-round and become a place of refuge, hope, and reassurance for their communities during an emergency.