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Firm expects to keep contract if control of solar farm changes

The large installation of solar panels on land near the airport known as the Finger (File photograph)

A company running everyday operations at the Finger solar farm is expected to remain on the job if a change of control is completed.

BAC Universal Electric is responsible for repairs and maintenance at the six-megawatt plant, which was developed by Saturn Solar Bermuda 1 at the airport.

A bulk generation licence application submitted to the Regulatory Authority showed that a deal was struck in September between Saturn Power, the parent company of SSB1, and FB Solar LLC, which is owned by the Bermuda Infrastructure Fund.

Joe Toth, BAC Universal Electric’s estimating and resources planning manager, said: “BUE was asked to bid on the operation and maintenance (O & M) contract in 2020 from Saturn Solar Bermuda 1 Ltd.”

He added: “BUE will continue to be the O&M contractor if/when there is an ownership change, as contractually obligated.”

Mr Toth said that BUE was an “electrical contracting, service and engineering company”.

He added that “with regards to the Finger, O&M it is no different than the O&M services we already provide to various Bermudian companies on island”.

Mr Toth said: “BUE runs day-to-day operations and maintenance at the site for Saturn Solar Bermuda 1 Ltd.

“It consists of daily remote monitoring, on-site preventive maintenance and any repairs required during the operation of the facility 24/7.”

He was speaking after the RA asked for public comment on the proposed change of control of the 19-acre plant, which is expected to be able to provide up to 13 per cent of the island’s energy needs at maximum solar production.

An application published on its website said that Saturn Power International, an Ontario-based company that owns Saturn Solar Bermuda Holdings – which owns all the issued shares in SSB1 – “entered into a sale and purchase agreement dated 13 September 2021 … with FB Solar LLC, a Bermuda exempted limited liability company”.

It added that the day-to-day operations and maintenance of the project would be contracted out but the name of the business that would take on the work was removed from the documents.

An RA spokeswoman said last week: “Information is redacted by the applicant to protect sensitive and confidential information that is not deemed to be material to the decision.”

Grant Gibbons, a former One Bermuda Alliance MP and minister, is the president of the BAC Group of Companies.

He was the Minister of Economic Development when a request for proposals for the solar farm scheme was issued in December 2016.

Dr Gibbons told the House of Assembly two months later that the project was a joint effort between his ministry and the public works ministry.

He said last week that his appointment to BAC was made after he retired from politics in April 2018.

He explained that he was “not involved with it at all” when he was the economic development minister, nor before that, and said that the firm’s work at the solar plant was “purely by chance”.

Dr Gibbons added: “I’m pleased, obviously, that BUE among other contractors was the one that was initially taken on to help with maintenance and was successful, although I don’t know the nature and the contract that was actually signed.”

He said he was pleased that the Progressive Labour Party administration continued with the project after its July 2017 General Election win.

Dr Gibbons added: “It seemed like a very good thing to both move our electrical generation from fossil over to more environmentally friendly solar and also to reduce the cost to everybody.”

The Royal Gazette asked the RA how many submissions were received after it invited comments and whether they would be published on the authority’s website.

An RA spokeswoman said last week that the organisation was "not at the point of publishing any information“.

She added: “The RA is not able to comment on whether responses have been received r or state whether any response(s) were received.

“Unlike with public consultations, responses received from a request for public comment are not posted on the RA website.”

Documents on the Registrar of Companies website listed Douglas Wagner and Raymond Roth – co-founders of Saturn Power and its president and chief operating officer respectively – as the directors of SSB1, Saturn Solar Bermuda Holdings and another company, Saturn Solar Developments.

Demetrios Tserpelis, whose address was care of infrastructure fund managers Fortress, was listed as a manager at FB Solar LLC.

The RA said earlier that SSB1 held a licence to “engage in the bulk generation of renewable energy” at the Finger.

SSB1 and electricity firm Belco earlier entered a power purchase agreement and the solar farm started to feed energy into the grid last November.

A spreadsheet of obligations, which was used to track progress during the development of the solar farm, highlighted that Belco asked for written confirmation that it could recoup costs from customers.

The records were released to the Gazette by the Department of Energy after a Public Access to Information request.

An entry dated September 25, 2020 said: “There is a provision in PPA for Belco to recover their costs from retail customers associated with the project.

“RA provided an order which approves the PPA but Belco has asked for this to be stated explicitly in writing.”

An order published on the RA website with effect from October 2, 2020 said that the authority approved “Belco’s ability to recover, on a timely basis, all costs incurred by Belco pursuant to the PPA, from its retail customers in accordance with applicable rates and tariffs during the term of the PPA”.

The authority spokeswoman said that costs associated with generation procurement were a standard recovery line item set out in the Electricity Act for a transmission, distribution and retail licensee such as Belco.