Business

Low-Priced Solar Projects Approved

March 27, 2019, 3:57 PM HST
* Updated March 28, 8:29 AM
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Six grid-scale solar-plus-battery storage projects, the largest and lowest-cost portfolio of renewable energy resources to be assembled at one time in Hawai‘i, have been approved by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

Two projects on Hawai‘i Island, three on O‘ahu, and one on Maui will add 247 megawatts (MW) of solar energy with almost 1 gigawatt hour of storage. Each project is coupled with battery storage that can store four hours of energy that can further reduce fossil fuel use during peak demand in the evening or at other times of the day when the sun isn’t shining.

These six projects are capable of providing enough energy to power 105,000 homes per year and can eliminate the use of more than 48 million gallons of imported fossil fuels annually, significantly lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

“We really appreciate the PUC moving so quickly to review and approve these projects, which enables the developers to meet the aggressive schedule that was set up to take advantage of federal tax credits,” said Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president of business development and strategic planning. “The sooner these projects are delivering energy to customers, the sooner they’ll see savings.”

The low prices reflect the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ innovative new contract structure that enables the utility to dispatch energy from each facility to meet the needs of the grid. All of the projects will provide stable, long-term prices in place of the volatile prices of fossil fuels.

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These prices, which are charged to customers with no mark-up or profit to the utility, are significantly lower than the current cost of fossil fuel generation, which is about 15 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). The approximate equivalent cost per kWh of the approved projects are:

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Among the projects approved is Ho‘ohana Solar 1 in Kunia, which is planned for a parcel zoned as prime agricultural land, where renewable energy projects are currently not permitted. As approved by the PUC, the contract specifies that site control and all necessary permits are the sole responsibility of the developer, 174 Power Global.

These projects are the result of a procurement effort the companies began in February 2018 to expand their renewable energy portfolios. Two additional projects, a 12.5-megawatt solar array in West O‘ahu that will include a 50-megawatt-hour storage system and a 15-megawatt solar array on Maui that will include a 60-megawatt-hour storage system, are still under review by regulators.

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Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawai‘i Electric Light already have more than 500 MW of renewable energy under contract in addition to nearly 80,000 privately owned rooftop systems in operation.

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