Company chosen to install PV for county

Hawaii Pacific Solar LLC of Lahaina has been selected by Maui County to install photovoltaic panels atop county facilities at 18 sites on Molokai and Maui, according to an announcement.

The company submitted the highest-scoring proposal, and the county intends to award it the contract, the announcement from the county said.

The sites include fire and police stations, water treatment plants, aquatic centers, community centers and other county facilities.

The contract is for the latest phase of the county’s ongoing work to install photovoltaic panels at Maui County facilities. Already installed solar systems are saving county taxpayers millions of dollars in bills from Maui Electric Co., county officials said.

Under the solar program, the winning bidder pays for the cost of installing the solar panels and then sells the county reduced-price power. The arrangement allows the contractor to take advantage of available tax credits for solar power installation that the county could not use if it purchased panels directly. Through September, 21 county facilities on Maui and Lanai have been equipped with solar panels.

“We will save taxpayer dollars because our starting price is lower than the MECO rate,” said Mayor Alan Arakawa. “But just as important is the fact that the county demonstrate to the community how renewable energy can be used in ways that traditional fossil sources cannot.”

The county received initial submittals from 17 potential bidders. After bidder walk-through inspections of all the facilities, nine bidders submitted written proposals, which were then evaluated and scored, according to the county announcement.

Hawaii Pacific offered the county a proposal with “price de-escalation,” the county said. The price the county will pay for the power will drop every year for 20 years by 2.75 percent (from 23.4 cents per kilowatt hour in the first year to 13.8 cents per kilowatt hour in year 20). Hawaii Pacific was the only bidder to offer declining pricing.

Earlier solar power purchasing agreements had provisions in which prices rose by 2.5 percent annually, said Doug McLeod, Maui County energy commissioner.

Now, those rising prices will be hedged by the new agreement with declining pricing, he said.

“The county can be sure that for 20 years it will not face rising prices for the solar power it purchases,” he said.

The new county solar power agreement also calls for microgrid photovoltaic systems, including battery storage, to be installed at up to five of the 18 facilities, officials said.

A microgrid is a system that can be an “island” unto itself and continue to operate if the grid is down. It is not an “off-grid” system, which would not interconnect with MECO. A microgrid generally runs connected to MECO, but it has its own backup system, meaning that it could continue to operate in emergencies when the MECO grid goes down, officials said.

The Hawaii Pacific Solar team includes Princeton Power Systems, the county announcement said. That company has provided microgrid solutions to the City of San Diego for facilities, including the Scripps Ranch Community Recreation Center. That facility also serves as an emergency command center for the city in emergencies.

Maui County is considering microgrid systems for the Kaunakakai Fire Station, War Memorial Complex in Wailuku, Tavares Community Center in Pukalani, the Lahaina Aquatics Center and the new Kihei police station.

Maui facilities covered by the county’s solar power contract with Hawaii Pacific Solar include: the Napili Fire Station, new Kihei police station, Wailuku Police Station, Iao Water Treatment Plant, Kula Fire Station, the Maui Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Bureau, the Maui Police Department’s forensic facility, the Mayor Hannibal Tavares Community Center in Pukalani, the Kula Agricultural Park water pumping station, South Maui Community Park, War Memorial Complex, Lahaina Aquatic Center, Haiku Community Center, Paia Community Center and an adjacent wastewater pumping station.

Molokai facilities include the Kaunakakai and Hoolehua fire stations, the Mitchell Pauole Center in Kaunakakai and the island’s wastewater treatment facility and a pumping station.