Consumer-members of Hawaii’s only electric cooperative will soon be the beneficiaries of a $40 million solar facility, built on a site where generations of islanders once harvested sugar cane.
“This is a huge step toward achieving our goal of using renewable resources to generate at least half of our power needs by 2023,” said Teofilo “Phil” Tacbian, KIUC’s board chairman.
The co-op hopes to obtain all regulatory approvals for the project by July 2013, and is working toward a goal of having the site fully operational by late 2014. Once completed, more than 54,000 solar panels will be spread across 37 acres near the Old Koloa Sugar Mill historic site, where the last crop of sugar cane was harvested in 1996.
The Grove Farm project is the latest in a series of solar projects in the co-op’s renewable energy portfolio. At Port Allen, 11 miles west, a privately developed 6-megawatt solar facility is months away from completion. The co-op has a 20-year power purchase agreement for the output from the panels.
Another 12-megawatt solar farm is under development on Department of Hawaii Home Lands property, about 23 miles northeast of the Grove Farm site. It is a joint venture with the Homestead Community Development Corp. Construction is expected to begin in early 2013.
“These projects underscore KIUC’s leadership in the solar arena and our commitment to renewable energy,” said David Bissell, the co-op’s president and CEO.
The co-op is also developing a 3-megawatt battery storage system near the Port Allen solar site to ensure system reliability. Battery capacity is also in place near the Grove Farm site, and will be expanded, co-op officials said.
“Projects under development, either KIUC-owned or through power purchase agreements, represent more than $200 million of capital investment over the next several years,” said Bissell. “The work we’re doing today means KIUC members and their children will benefit for the next two decades from clean, renewable solar energy at a fixed price not tied to oil.”
By Derrill Holly | ECT Staff WriterPublished: October 23rd, 2012