Off-grid power for hurricane prone British Virgin Islands

"The PowerBox is a phenomenal piece of technology that provides a robust, flexible and easy to maintain clean energy generating system.

Its quick deployment can be facilitated through traditional means or via more non-conventional routes such as underslung helicopter loads which enable it to provide lifesaving capacity in the most challenging of situation and environments."

Nick Spicer, Renewable Energy consultant to Team Rubicon UK.

When a hurricane hits the British Virgin Islands as Hurricane Irma did in 2017, the infrastructure of the islands can be devastated and getting power back online is a priority.  Now, with the installation of Leading Edge PowerBoxes in 2019, off-grid remote power for essential services can be provided when the next hurricane hits.

Provided by the disaster relief charity, Team Rubicon UK, each PowerBox supplies 120V AC electricity for emergency shelters and medical facilities via an on-board 3000VA inverter/ charger. 

Power is generated by the Leading Edge LE-600 wind turbine mounted on one corner of the PowerBox and 1.3kW-1.5kW of solar, designed for disaster response applications by GB Sol and specified by Team Rubicon UK.

The PowerBox is a pre-configured, self-contained system the size of a standard pallet that once installed is left operating, topping up the batteries until needed.  

When a hurricane is forecast, all that needs to be done is to lower the wind turbine, the PowerBox unit itself is bolted to the concrete pad on which it sits.  This is a simple operation – stop the turbine spinning with a switch, undo the two bolts at the bottom of the mast and lower the mast.  The wind turbine is then stored in a safe place until the storm has passed.

As soon as it is safe to do so, the wind turbine is reinstalled and the foam-backed flexible solar panels are laid out and fixed to the ground, together they produce 1.5kW of power during daylight hours with the wind turbine continuing to put in power during the night.  The AC equipment that needs powering is then plugged into the PowerBox.

In the first phase, four PowerBoxes were sent to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and installed on Tortola, the main island. Manufactured in the UK by Leading Edge Power, the PowerBoxes are air and sea freight friendly; the six on-board deep-cycle batteries comply with IATA Special Provisions A48 and A67 and therefore classified as non-restricted goods.  

On arrival in BVI, Dave Hailes, Director at Leading Edge Power, together with Nick Spicer, Renewable Energy consultant to Team Rubicon UK, commissioned the systems.  The PowerBoxes were installed at Long Tench Community Centre, East End Long Look Emergency Shelter, West End Community Centre and Capoons Bay Medical Clinic. Each took around 2 hours to install and didn’t require specialist tools.

"The PowerBox is a phenomenal piece of technology that provides a robust, flexible and easy to maintain clean energy generating system. Its quick deployment can be facilitated through traditional means or via more non-conventional routes such as underslung helicopter loads which enable it to provide lifesaving capacity in the most challenging of situation and environments," commented Nick Spicer, Renewable Energy consultant to Team Rubicon UK.

Hopefully the islands will be hurricane free but if one does hit, there'll be power for essential services.