2 more large-scale solar projects for Maui in contract talks

The Maui News

Seven large combined solar and power storage projects statewide — including two on Maui — are in contract negotiations and represent the largest infusion of renewable energy in state history, Hawaiian Electric Cos. announced Tuesday.

The two Maui Electric Co. projects will produce a total of 75 megawatts and store 300 megawatt hours of power, the HECO news release said.

MECO spokeswoman Shayna Decker on Tuesday could not release details about who the developers were and where the projects would be because of the ongoing negotiations.

“Each of the developers, as required by Maui Electric, will be sharing information about the proposed projects in the coming weeks and talking to the communities where the projects are being proposed,” Decker said.

Residents will be invited to ask questions and give comment, she said.

Decker said MECO hopes to complete contract negotiations and submit a proposed power purchase agreement to the Public Utilities Commission for review by the end of the year.

The seven projects are expected to produce about 260 MW of solar energy on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii islands and displace 1.2 million barrels of oil, HECO said. Each solar project will be connected to a storage system that will capture up to four hours of electricity that can further reduce fossil fuel use in the evening or other times when the sun isn’t shining.

“These large-scale solar and battery projects will accelerate our renewable energy drive at some of the lowest prices we’ve seen to date,” said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president of business development and strategic planning. “With support from our communities, these projects will reduce our reliance on fossil fuel and cut greenhouse gas emissions while benefiting all with low-cost renewable energy.”

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 private rooftop systems in operation.

The announcement comes on the heels of Maui’s second utility-scale solar project, Ku’ia Solar in West Maui near Lahainaluna High, going online Thursday. Ku’ia Solar’s sister project, South Maui Renewable Resources near the Maui Research & Technology Park, was the first utility-scale solar project to feed MECO’s grid in May.

The projects, owned and operated by Kenyon Energy, can supply up to 2.87 MW of solar power each to the grid.

The addition of Ku’ia Solar power increased MECO’s renewable energy portfolio to 34 percent, which is ahead of the state’s target of 30 percent renewable energy by 2020, the utility said.

On Molokai, a power purchase agreement for a 2.64 MW project, which includes a 3 MW battery energy storage system, was approved by the PUC in late July. The project is owned and operated by Moloka’i New Energy Partners, a Chicago-based Half Moon Ventures company that will sell power to MECO.

The project is expected to be in service by the end of 2019.

The seven projects were the result of an expedited procurement effort that began in February, HECO said. The cost of renewable energy continues to drop, aided by tax credits available to developers.

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