Branson group is rebuilding another hurricane-damaged solar array


Sir Richard Branson’s BMR Energy group started construction on a 6.4- MW solar farm in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

The facility is expected to enter service in the fourth quarter and will sell power to the Virgin Island Power and Water Authority (VIWAPA) under a 25-year power purchase agreement.

The facility is being built on the site of a former 4.8 MW solar facility that suffered damage during the 2017 hurricane season. BMR agreed to acquire the site in 2019 from a unit of AES; it closed on the purchase last summer. The new facility incorporates design and construction features aimed at increasing equipment strength and resilience to future windstorms.

The solar farm will include more than 14,000 photovoltaic modules and has been designed with strengthened racking, foundations, and module connection systems to withstand wind speeds up to 180 mph. The three main equipment suppliers are Polar Racking, Longi solar modules, and Delta inverters.

This will be the second project BMR Energy will operate to provide electricity for the utility.

The Spanish Town Estate in St. Croix, USVI, solar farm had been in operation since 2015, but experienced significant damage after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The plant’s electrical equipment, including the inverters, suffered extreme water damage after a roof fan of the structure housing the equipment blew out. Other electronic equipment and many solar modules were severely damaged during a static surge.

BMR Energy bought the damaged facility from NRG Energy to restore it. As part of its work, BMR replaced electrical equipment with new outdoor-rated materials with salt- and moisture-resistant coating, installed a new roof fan, repaired the damaged module arrays, and reinforced all supporting structures. The team also set up new storm preparedness operating procedures to regularly check grounding systems and guard against future static surges. The solar plant returned to full operation in November 2018 and produces up to 4 MW.

This story was updated on April 9 to include the main equipment suppliers.

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