Bright openings for 2019

Reporting from the middle of January, in his New Year Message, the Hon. Premier Donaldson Romeo announced a list of ‘Breakthroughs’, many of which were to be happening even as he spoke.

Minister Lewis with consultants and related MCWL staff after a press briefing

 But a question loomed. Is this really happening?

 TMR has set about keeping track of the “breakthroughs” pondering whether they are leading up to an economy transforming “breakout” that has shattered the Montserrat resistance that has kept it back from April 1996, when Sir Nicholas Bonsor brought the message from the UKG (Her Majesty’s UK Government) that they are satisfied that Montserrat can go on but in the north of the Island.

The Premier had spoken to a list which included, for one, can be seen the Carr’s Bay bridge with wait in line at the temporary traffic lights. Public Works had been waiting for the concrete to gain strength as it hardens through chemical reactions.

Carrs Bay Bridge

 
Bridge nears completion – workers report suspect on its width

Reporting now up to date, the skepticism about what might be wrong with the bridge has been borne out, when the suggestion that the bridge was not wide enough going into the future. It has been reported that two trucks could not safely cross on the bridge, observed from a test conducted last week to the dismay of workers on the bridge.

It is noted now as we lamented at TMR earlier and continuing, that the dismissal of the Head of the Project Management Office (PMO) Carl Gomersall is being felt in any delay with any development.

If things were a little further along, by Carr’s Bay corner a few days into the new year, one would have seen two tractor-trailers in a convoy, coming from the Port and going up the Davy hill. One of the loads was so tall they had to lift electrical cables as it passed.

Tunnel blockage

 
Transported Cab for new air traffic tower stuck under runway tunnel

Then, when they got to the tunnel under the runway at Geralds, it got stuck, delaying traffic and passengers rushing to check-in no later than 4.00 p.m. for their 5.30 flight to Antigua and onwards. If you look at the tunnel’s roof, you can see the scrape mark. Traffic was blocked until it was noted that it was possible to pass the trailer with the air traffic cargo. The wait then as they soon figured to let air out of the tires to get things going again. The mysterious “cab” for the new air traffic control tower is there, near the terminal building, covered in white protective material.

Following up is the next question is, when will construction and upgrading begin? When will we get new lighting, etc., and when will the airport be open for night flights that widen tourism opportunities as well as allow for medical evacuations by night?

The road to Cudjoe Head and Brades from St. John’s thru Barzeys

 
Realigned corner at Barzey’s ghaut and bridge still under construction

 Down in Barzeys, the new 20-foot wide road and bridge etc. are indeed in place. This provides a second access road between St Johns and Salt Spring, Cudjoe Head, and Brades, which improves resiliency in case the Brades main road is blocked.

Fibre optic preparations continue
On the first major corner down the Brades main road, there are now continuing signs with the trench for terrestrial fibre optic cable has moved ahead with traffic obstacles now moved off the road.

Now, Montserrat is another step closer to be reconnected to the Caribbean’s subsea fibre optic network. (See related story – release: GoM Issues RFP for the Montserrat Submarine Fibre Optic Cable Project Pg 14

 
a diagram of undersea-internet-cables-Ccaribbean

The feeling is that Montserrat since ‘yesterday’, needs inland fibre optic cables to make full use of the subsea fibre optic cables that assuredly had been agreed and funded.

 High bandwidth digital access up to at least 10 million bits per second will open up many opportunities for new industries and jobs in the digital sector. Of course, those who know are already asking and reminding; what are our educators doing to equip our children and youth for this dynamic digital sector of the global economy?

Solar energy – visible progress

 
workers lay panels – first day of installation

Going down the hill and passing by the recently opened Agriculture building and the MCWL building, now visible on the entire roof where MonTobacco resides, as well as the roof of the new house for MUL new electricity plant, are Solar photovoltaic panels.

 In a press conference on Wednesday, January 16, 2019, TMR and other media learned that panels were being installed Public Works Workshop’s roof and on MUL’s roof for the newly opened power Plant. These are the panels for the 250 kW – “kiloWatt,” that is 250,000 Watt – first phase solar energy powered power plant that must be completed by March to meet an EDF 10 deadline.  250 kW is about 10% of the island’s peak electrical load.

In the press conference on MCWL officials and consultants suggested this phase may provide about 3% of our overall annual electrical energy requirements. It was also suggested that the “levelised cost” of electricity from the first phase plant will be about US$ 0.05 – 0.06 per unit of energy, the kiloWatt-hour, kWh.

What the island pays for is kWh, and currently, MUL has to pay up to EC$ 1 million per month for the fuel used to provide that energy. This cost is what appears in our bills as a fuel surcharge.  It was also clarified that thanks to EDF 10 grant funding from the EU which covers capital costs, the effective cost to us is US$ 0.025 per kWh.

Over the next several months the second phase of 750 kW is to follow and it will have battery storage.  It is to be funded through EDF 11 funding which must be spent by the end of 2020. The use of battery storage will help to cushion fluctuations in PV electricity supply due to clouds passing over etc., and depending on funding may help to provide additional energy after sunset of up to ½ hour to 2 hours. The 1 MW – mega Watt, 1,000,00 Watts – of PV capacity may provide up to 10% of our overall electrical energy consumption. The intermittency of many renewable energy sources is a reason why many engineers in the Caribbean region are concerned about power grid system stability once RE is 15 – 20% of the grid’s power plant base.

The second phase, 750 kW solar PV plant is to be located at a different site, and the PV electrical power will give emergency backup for essential service facilities so that they will be kept going in event of an island-wide blackout. Informed speculation, therefore, suggests that it will be located near the hospital, airport and emergency department, with ZJB Radio Station being down the road in Davy Hill. The airport is thus a likely site.

This plant will improve the resiliency of our electrical supply, especially for essential services.

Geothermal

However, during the press conference, officials indicated that onward developments with geothermal energy will be announced fairly soon. It is now assumed that it is geothermal energy that will be able to replace the bulk of fossil fuel use to provide electrical energy. As geothermal potential has been suggested to be up to 100 MW, this will also be the source that can support considerable economic growth and especially the growth of the digital and tourism sectors. The brief optimism is that Government of Montserrat (GoM) and the UK, are getting ready to take every step to expedite the delayed, or paused development of geothermal energy.

ZJB Radio

Although there has been no formal announcement it is not difficult to note the change in sounds when listening to ZJB radio. By now as we wait for the announcement, the sounds indicate that the ZJB building is occupied and staff having to move in are functioning in continuous broadcasting quite seamlessly it would appear. Interruptions will now be in the past as their new generator arrived and contractors were seen at work, installing it.

FAM visit for budget talks

 
l-r: Hon. F.S., Hon. Premier, DFID team

On Monday, January 14, Government hosted a joint DfID, joined by Foreign Commonwealth Office, forming the UK delegation, holding the opening ceremony for the annual Financial Aid Mission (FAM) talks. Last year, the theme seemed to have been points of conflict. This year, Premier Romeo, HE Governor Pearce and the DfID spokesman sang off the same hymn-sheet. Yes, we need capital investments and a programme of £30+ million is on the table for the next five years.

Governor Pearce discussed how the various UK and EU aid projects add up to £60 – 70 million, as Premier Romeo continues to press for a social housing initiative. The hospital project is on the table. Roads and other civil works continue to be needed.

On the recurrent side, it seems that the UK target is 60% (as usual now) support and doubtless intense debates continue between GoM officials and the UK, line item by line item. The hint is for a hope that as the economy takes off, gradually we will shoulder more and more of the costs to provide the services we rely on day to day: health care, education, relief to the vulnerable, policing, fire and rescue, prison, courts, law, legislature, cabinet, post office, agriculture, environment, finance, law, customs, immigration and so much more.

Little Bay port and breakwater

Back at the MCWL building’s conference room, on Tuesday, January 15, the media was introduced to a preliminary design for the breakwater and berthing project for the seaport. Winners of the project, Stantec consultants of Canada and Barbados were present (led by Harold Westermann who recalled working on the Plymouth Jetty in the early 1990s) and presented the proposal.

Immediately, initial stakeholder consultations were launched, and the environment and social impact analysis got underway. A design is to follow, a permanent GoM project manager is to be appointed, a consultant serving as the coordinator is to also be appointed and once technical design work is completed construction is to begin. The timeline for construction suggests the fourth quarter of this year, to be completed by about the end of 2020.

The seaport and airport developments, as well as fibre optic cables, will go a long way towards breaking the access constraints that contribute to high costs.

There will be more detail of the press conferences and ensuing discussions in due course.

The Montserrat Reporter needs support


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Reporting from the middle of January, in his New Year Message, the Hon. Premier Donaldson Romeo announced a list of ‘Breakthroughs’, many of which were to be happening even as he spoke.

Minister Lewis with consultants and related MCWL staff after a press briefing

 But a question loomed. Is this really happening?

 TMR has set about keeping track of the “breakthroughs” pondering whether they are leading up to an economy transforming “breakout” that has shattered the Montserrat resistance that has kept it back from April 1996, when Sir Nicholas Bonsor brought the message from the UKG (Her Majesty’s UK Government) that they are satisfied that Montserrat can go on but in the north of the Island.

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The Premier had spoken to a list which included, for one, can be seen the Carr’s Bay bridge with wait in line at the temporary traffic lights. Public Works had been waiting for the concrete to gain strength as it hardens through chemical reactions.

Carrs Bay Bridge

 
Bridge nears completion – workers report suspect on its width

Reporting now up to date, the skepticism about what might be wrong with the bridge has been borne out, when the suggestion that the bridge was not wide enough going into the future. It has been reported that two trucks could not safely cross on the bridge, observed from a test conducted last week to the dismay of workers on the bridge.

It is noted now as we lamented at TMR earlier and continuing, that the dismissal of the Head of the Project Management Office (PMO) Carl Gomersall is being felt in any delay with any development.

If things were a little further along, by Carr’s Bay corner a few days into the new year, one would have seen two tractor-trailers in a convoy, coming from the Port and going up the Davy hill. One of the loads was so tall they had to lift electrical cables as it passed.

Tunnel blockage

 
Transported Cab for new air traffic tower stuck under runway tunnel

Then, when they got to the tunnel under the runway at Geralds, it got stuck, delaying traffic and passengers rushing to check-in no later than 4.00 p.m. for their 5.30 flight to Antigua and onwards. If you look at the tunnel’s roof, you can see the scrape mark. Traffic was blocked until it was noted that it was possible to pass the trailer with the air traffic cargo. The wait then as they soon figured to let air out of the tires to get things going again. The mysterious “cab” for the new air traffic control tower is there, near the terminal building, covered in white protective material.

Following up is the next question is, when will construction and upgrading begin? When will we get new lighting, etc., and when will the airport be open for night flights that widen tourism opportunities as well as allow for medical evacuations by night?

The road to Cudjoe Head and Brades from St. John’s thru Barzeys

 
Realigned corner at Barzey’s ghaut and bridge still under construction

 Down in Barzeys, the new 20-foot wide road and bridge etc. are indeed in place. This provides a second access road between St Johns and Salt Spring, Cudjoe Head, and Brades, which improves resiliency in case the Brades main road is blocked.

Fibre optic preparations continue
On the first major corner down the Brades main road, there are now continuing signs with the trench for terrestrial fibre optic cable has moved ahead with traffic obstacles now moved off the road.

Now, Montserrat is another step closer to be reconnected to the Caribbean’s subsea fibre optic network. (See related story – release: GoM Issues RFP for the Montserrat Submarine Fibre Optic Cable Project Pg 14

 
a diagram of undersea-internet-cables-Ccaribbean

The feeling is that Montserrat since ‘yesterday’, needs inland fibre optic cables to make full use of the subsea fibre optic cables that assuredly had been agreed and funded.

 High bandwidth digital access up to at least 10 million bits per second will open up many opportunities for new industries and jobs in the digital sector. Of course, those who know are already asking and reminding; what are our educators doing to equip our children and youth for this dynamic digital sector of the global economy?

Solar energy – visible progress

 
workers lay panels – first day of installation

Going down the hill and passing by the recently opened Agriculture building and the MCWL building, now visible on the entire roof where MonTobacco resides, as well as the roof of the new house for MUL new electricity plant, are Solar photovoltaic panels.

 In a press conference on Wednesday, January 16, 2019, TMR and other media learned that panels were being installed Public Works Workshop’s roof and on MUL’s roof for the newly opened power Plant. These are the panels for the 250 kW – “kiloWatt,” that is 250,000 Watt – first phase solar energy powered power plant that must be completed by March to meet an EDF 10 deadline.  250 kW is about 10% of the island’s peak electrical load.

In the press conference on MCWL officials and consultants suggested this phase may provide about 3% of our overall annual electrical energy requirements. It was also suggested that the “levelised cost” of electricity from the first phase plant will be about US$ 0.05 – 0.06 per unit of energy, the kiloWatt-hour, kWh.

What the island pays for is kWh, and currently, MUL has to pay up to EC$ 1 million per month for the fuel used to provide that energy. This cost is what appears in our bills as a fuel surcharge.  It was also clarified that thanks to EDF 10 grant funding from the EU which covers capital costs, the effective cost to us is US$ 0.025 per kWh.

Over the next several months the second phase of 750 kW is to follow and it will have battery storage.  It is to be funded through EDF 11 funding which must be spent by the end of 2020. The use of battery storage will help to cushion fluctuations in PV electricity supply due to clouds passing over etc., and depending on funding may help to provide additional energy after sunset of up to ½ hour to 2 hours. The 1 MW – mega Watt, 1,000,00 Watts – of PV capacity may provide up to 10% of our overall electrical energy consumption. The intermittency of many renewable energy sources is a reason why many engineers in the Caribbean region are concerned about power grid system stability once RE is 15 – 20% of the grid’s power plant base.

The second phase, 750 kW solar PV plant is to be located at a different site, and the PV electrical power will give emergency backup for essential service facilities so that they will be kept going in event of an island-wide blackout. Informed speculation, therefore, suggests that it will be located near the hospital, airport and emergency department, with ZJB Radio Station being down the road in Davy Hill. The airport is thus a likely site.

This plant will improve the resiliency of our electrical supply, especially for essential services.

Geothermal

However, during the press conference, officials indicated that onward developments with geothermal energy will be announced fairly soon. It is now assumed that it is geothermal energy that will be able to replace the bulk of fossil fuel use to provide electrical energy. As geothermal potential has been suggested to be up to 100 MW, this will also be the source that can support considerable economic growth and especially the growth of the digital and tourism sectors. The brief optimism is that Government of Montserrat (GoM) and the UK, are getting ready to take every step to expedite the delayed, or paused development of geothermal energy.

ZJB Radio

Although there has been no formal announcement it is not difficult to note the change in sounds when listening to ZJB radio. By now as we wait for the announcement, the sounds indicate that the ZJB building is occupied and staff having to move in are functioning in continuous broadcasting quite seamlessly it would appear. Interruptions will now be in the past as their new generator arrived and contractors were seen at work, installing it.

FAM visit for budget talks

 
l-r: Hon. F.S., Hon. Premier, DFID team

On Monday, January 14, Government hosted a joint DfID, joined by Foreign Commonwealth Office, forming the UK delegation, holding the opening ceremony for the annual Financial Aid Mission (FAM) talks. Last year, the theme seemed to have been points of conflict. This year, Premier Romeo, HE Governor Pearce and the DfID spokesman sang off the same hymn-sheet. Yes, we need capital investments and a programme of £30+ million is on the table for the next five years.

Governor Pearce discussed how the various UK and EU aid projects add up to £60 – 70 million, as Premier Romeo continues to press for a social housing initiative. The hospital project is on the table. Roads and other civil works continue to be needed.

On the recurrent side, it seems that the UK target is 60% (as usual now) support and doubtless intense debates continue between GoM officials and the UK, line item by line item. The hint is for a hope that as the economy takes off, gradually we will shoulder more and more of the costs to provide the services we rely on day to day: health care, education, relief to the vulnerable, policing, fire and rescue, prison, courts, law, legislature, cabinet, post office, agriculture, environment, finance, law, customs, immigration and so much more.

Little Bay port and breakwater

Back at the MCWL building’s conference room, on Tuesday, January 15, the media was introduced to a preliminary design for the breakwater and berthing project for the seaport. Winners of the project, Stantec consultants of Canada and Barbados were present (led by Harold Westermann who recalled working on the Plymouth Jetty in the early 1990s) and presented the proposal.

Immediately, initial stakeholder consultations were launched, and the environment and social impact analysis got underway. A design is to follow, a permanent GoM project manager is to be appointed, a consultant serving as the coordinator is to also be appointed and once technical design work is completed construction is to begin. The timeline for construction suggests the fourth quarter of this year, to be completed by about the end of 2020.

The seaport and airport developments, as well as fibre optic cables, will go a long way towards breaking the access constraints that contribute to high costs.

There will be more detail of the press conferences and ensuing discussions in due course.

The Montserrat Reporter needs support