Remote, luxury island requires reliable power generation

Paul Boughton
Chad Dozier looks at the role generator sets play in providing power services to the island of Mustique

Providing power to a mainland community presents challenges for any utility, but ensuring power to an island community takes a committed company and the most reliable equipment available. Such is the case with the Mustique Company, which manages all of the operations of the island of Mustique.

Mustique is approximately 5.7 square kilometres (2.2 square miles) in size and is located 32 kilometres (20 miles) south of St. Vincent in the Grenadine Islands. A world-renowned vacation destination, its remote location offers a backdrop of elegance, luxury and privacy for more than 90 villas belonging to celebrities and dignitaries.

The homeowners own the Mustique Company, a limited private company on a long-term lease from the St. Vincent and Grenadine government. It provides day-to-day services including utilities and power generation.

Tourism is the mainstay of Mustique's economy and demands reliable power during its peak season from December to April, averaging 3.3MW at any given time. The off season averages 1.4MW - a load that must be maintained for residents and businesses to survive. The island's clientele has invested their money in the Mustique Company and, in turn, has high expectations for 24/7 power.[Page Break]

Generator sets

For 40 years, the Mustique Company has utilised Cat generator sets to provide power services to the island. In 2007, they were interested in updating their equipment to not only meet their power requirements, but also to increase their efficiency and overall revenue. Mustique representatives contacted Barbados-based Cat Dealer RIMCO for a solution that would meet their needs.

An evaluation by RIMCO determined that a Cat C175-16 diesel generator set would best suit the Mustique Company's power needs. Its size and design fit into an existing area that housed four Cat 3516 generator sets in use at the time. The C175 would also require less insulation and fewer accessories while providing the same power output as the pre-existing units.

Installation proved to be the biggest challenge of the project and innovative techniques were called into play to transport the C175 to its new location at the Mustique Company power plant. After being shipped from St. Vincent, the equipment was delivered by tractor trailer and unloaded by crane, but this is where the use of heavy equipment ended. An innovative system consisting of jacks, pipes and scaffolding was put into play as the C175 was moved by hand to its location within the power plant.

While the new generator set met the power plant size requirements, additional modifications were needed. The facility's louvers were expanded to accommodate the C175's radiator and new mufflers were installed to the exhaust system. In-house workers handled all aspects of the installation, and the entire process took about three weeks.

The C175 runs continuously, providing the island with 1.3 to 2MW of power. The island's peak power need of 3.3MW is met with the addition of one of the 3516 generator sets, which is generally used during routine maintenance and as a standby unit.

Since its installation in November 2007, the C175 has run nearly 22 700 hours. When it is online and operating at a 90 per cent load, the generator set is meeting oil pressure and bearing temperature expectations.

"Based on the private nature of our business, we prefer to be as independent as possible," commented Mustique Company Technical Manager, Justin Providence. "RIMCO and Caterpillar are there for us when needed, but we prefer to perform service ourselves."

The Mustique Company received initial training from Caterpillar and continues to interact with RIMCO representatives on a case-by-case basis. Scheduled maintenance and repairs are performed by Mustique Company employees.

"The C175 is extremely efficient in terms of fuel and all technical parameters are acceptable," Providence said. "Overall we are very pleased with its performance. It has replaced the 3516 generator sets well and is helping us generate revenue."

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Chad Dozier is Diesel Product Consultant, Caterpillar Inc, Mossville, Illinois, USA.

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