Commissioner of Energy, Theo Heyliger met with GEBE Managing Director, ir. William Brooks, to discuss the ongoing power outages and the arrival of the two new generators.


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Brooks explained that GEBE has enough installed capacity at the power plant at this time, but due to an all time high peak demand of almost 54 MW, any large generator that has any mechanical problem, results in cables out and consequently load shedding.

GEBE is doing its best to stabilize the load shedding problems at this time, however, if two of the larger engines have a problem, it results in up to 15 MW being lost and therefore results in load shedding.

"We do understand the discomfort this is causing the community of St. Maarten and our team is working around the clock to solve these mechanical problems," Brooks explained. The new Commissioner of Energy, Theo Heyliger, showed support and confidence that GEBE would solve the problem. "We appreciate his concern and understanding during this difficult time. We will do our utmost to solve this problem as soon as possible."

Brooks explained that in 2007 when he came in as the new managing director, he projected that GEBE would need extra capacity for the rising demand of electricity on St. Maarten at the end of 2009. For this reason GEBE bought two new engines directly in 2007, as the engines have a lead time of 3 years. The managing director was able to negotiate a shorter lead time of 2 years. The engines arrived on the island on Monday and were offloaded from the ship on Tuesday, July 14, 2009.

The installation of the engines will take several months and the expected commissioning date is December 2009 in time for the high season. "We expect that when the two new engines are commissioned and online that the problems we are experiencing currently with the load shedding would be something of the past."

The two new 11.3 megawatt units are radiator cooled. GEBE will be steering the production plant away from the current seawater cooled generators that has been the norm for GEBE during the last 10 years in favor of air cooled generators.

GEBE aims to provide high quality and reliable electricity and the main goal is to make electricity production self supporting by minimizing the influence of outside elements on the supply of electricity. The groundwork was laid with the laying of the cables underground. The second phase is to reduce our dependence on seawater with newer radiator cooled generators.

The radiators will increase the reliability of the engines during and after a hurricane as was demonstrated in October 2008 during hurricane Omar when the power plant had to cease operations due to seaweed clogging the seawater cooling system. With the major part of our high tension system underground and the ability to produce electricity independent of sea conditions GEBE would be able to meet the growing demand for electricity even after a major hurricane.