When we rented VT before purchasing I noticed somehow the 6400 weekly rate had morphed somehow into 6848. I understand the hotel tax at 10 percent, but was curious how our rate jumped by 7 percent. Then i found it, a 7 percent surcharge (fee) for electricity during summer rates. I am aware that electricity is insanely expensive in the VI vs. what us statesiders are used to. Couldn't they just raise the base rate over the summer?
After we purchased Tesori, I was determined to eliminate this fee. Amazingly i got pushback from our property manager. She claimed that many homes had a surcharge in the summer to cover the extra cost of A/C. It actually took a few discussions before I was allowed to eliminate this fee on ~my~ home. (I have a rant about my inability to be goldfish free at VT, but that is a later blog.)
Having stayed at Tesori in July, we were aware of the need for A/C for those from more northern climates. We also discovered the dreaded "energy eye". This evil device will turn off the A/C if it does not sense you in the room for more than 15 minutes or so. A wonderful idea on paper, but the stupid thing kept turning off the A/C during the night when we stayed. It.had.to.go.
The electric bill for Tesori varies between 1200 and 3400 per month. To be clear, I understand the desire for both the surcharge and the energy eye. It is just that they fly in the face of my personal vendetta against fees and our need for comfort. If you are going to rent VT, we want your experience to exceed expectations. Otherwise, it might interfere with my diabolical plan of hooking you on VT.
Keeping this in mind, I contacted Dan Boyd, of Island Solar. We discussed the possibility of using solar at VT. He met me at the house and came up with a plan to instal roughly 20kw of solar panels for us. We agreed and off we went. Off we went meaning we agreed to start a construction project in St. John, which is entirely different than actually starting construction.
The initial plan had been to put the panels on the roof, invisible to everyone. Unfortunately the roof of VT is not conducive to install that much solar capacity. We ended up with a plan to put them below the house. This provided us with the ability to put in the largest number of panels, as well as a safer location. Unless one looks over the deck, the panels are not even noticed.
Dan and his group are honest, hardworking and nice to work with. Anyone who expects deadlines to be met on St. John needs psychological help. If someone shows up on the day they are supposed to, they are on time. This is not a complaint, just something to keep in mind if something goes wrong while you are staying at a villa here. I understood this and expected our November 2013 completion date would be pushed back.....which it was, to a final date of July 2014. We still don't have our net meter, but apparently the current meter spins backwards quite well!!!
Beyond the delays I will mention one item of interest. Concrete disappears on St. John. Seriously. The stuff is like gold. During one particular pour, we ordered 10 yards, needed 8. This was to appease the Jumbies, who mysteriously vaporize concrete between when it is put in the truck and when it is delivered. We had a 2 yard buffer, brilliant planning on Dan's part.
Apparently VT had offended the jumbies and our 10 yards ended up being 5. The truck which should have been there at noon arrived at 4pm. After sacrificing a bottle of Cruzan to appease the unhappy spirits, we ordered another 6 yards of concrete. This delivery was also late, arriving at 3pm. As we had sacrificed a larger quantity of Cruzan than normal the previous evening, we were deluded that we would have more than enough concrete to complete the job....we were again short.
While Dan was actually on St. Thomas during this episode, apparently searching for a Jumbie trap. His crew took umbrage at the concrete antics of the Jumbies. They mixed 2 yards of concrete by hand, in our driveway and moved it by 5 gallon buckets. I was incredibly appreciative of their efforts on our behalf. Hauling 5 gallon buckets of concrete was above and beyond my expectation. The Concrete got finished and we were on track to finish 8 months after estimated. (Don't tell Dan, but I initially expected a June completion. Being off by one month is a win in my book.)
The solar panels are now in. Our electric bills are in the low hundred dollar range. We have killed off the evil fee. My only issue is that occasionally the electric eye gets turned on again. I think perhaps the Jumbies enjoy taunting me. If you stay at Tesori and notice the electric eye being turned on, or find a Jumbie mid prank, please drop me an email.
For those that are curious. Electricity in the VI is roughly 55 cents per KWH. Our solar power (on paper) should have a pay back period of 4 years or so. With an expected life of over 20 years, it should be a worthwhile investment for VT and our guests.
Beyond Solar, Dan is a renaissance man. He has a construction business and a dive/snorkel boat business. His links are below.