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A barge with spool of the electric and fiberoptic cable.

Saint Helena and Barbareta get connected to Roatan’s Electrical Grid

Roatan’s Roatan Electric Company is bringing in underwater cable from its Roatan to the island of Saint Helena and island of Barbareta. The $9 million project should link the two smaller islands with Roatan’s electrical grid powered by natural gas and solar.

The three power cables and a fiberoptic cable were fitted inside a cable and protected with an armor coating. “You still don’t want to put a boat propeller across it,” but it’s pretty strong, very rugged,” says Ing. Phil Michael of Alliance Power. “It’s designed to be a submarine cable.” Ing. Michael has worked on project development for 28-Megawatt propane powered power plant brought by RECO on line in 2017.

The 5′ diameter cable is rated for 15 KW and Kerite company of Massachusetts fabricated the cable brought in on two cable spools winning a contract bid of $2.5 million dollars. Most of the submarine cable will lie in around 20 feet of water. The challenge of the 120 feet will come at the Morat channel where currents and depth of 120 feet will make the operation more difficult.

Cable was unwound, floated on the surface and sunk in areas with no coral.

A 3D map of the terrain was composed by Columbian Company Geomares in preparation of the estimating the length and laying of the cable. According to Ing. Michael three echosounders with multiple beams scanned the underwater topography and allowed for the more precise planning of the cable’s route.

On March 7 the operation of unwinding the first roll of the marine underwater cable begun.

The cable was unwound, floated on the surface and sunk in areas with no coral. According to Matt Harper, RECO’s operations manager, Tegucigalpa based biologist relocated 400 soft corals to make room for the cable.

The first phase of the project begun on March 7 and involved laying of the 1.5-kilometer cable between the eastern edge of Port Royal to the western shore of Saint Helene island. The cable enters the water at the very last portion of elevated piece of Roatan, on the edge of the mangroves, on the western Port Royal. The overall cost of installation is $1.8 million.

While Ing. Michael originally estimated the work to last four-five days, it took twice that long. There were delays due to high wind and difficulty of fitting the cable. “We were not able to lay it int a small, shallow creek,” explained Harper. The installers had to adopt on the go to weather conditions and topography.

Mathew Harper, RECO’s operations manager, holds a sample of the marine cable.

The first portion of the operation was much simpler as the cable was to be laid at a dept of only 3 to 12 feet. Subway watersports and local Saint Helene divers helped in making sure the cable was lowered in place. “Its heavy enough to not be covered,” explained Harper, “If we were to cover the cable it would stir up the bottom.”

The cable has the enough current capacity for 6 megawatts and fiberglass poles and above ground wire has already been installed on Santa Helena and on Barbareta cable will be laid underground. RECO estimates that currently only 50 of the 250 homes on the island have any sort of electric power, usually generators.

The second phase of the project is due to begin in early April and it will connect Santa Helena and Barbareta island developed by billionaire Kelcy Warren. Warren purchased 52% shares of RECO in 2008 and is developing Barbareta as a holiday residence. Dallas based Warren has who made his fortune in oil and gas pipelines, according to Forbes magazine, is valued at 4.3 Billion dollars. Warren in the richest man in Honduras and the 478th richest man on the planet.

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