MECO to build new substation

‘Low-profile’ project to be located near the intersection of Kuihelani Highway, Maui Lani Parkway

The Maui News

Maui Electric Co. will begin construction this month of its Kuihelani Substation near the intersection of Kuihelani Highway and Maui Lani Parkway.

The project is aimed at meeting a growing electricity demand from Central Maui homes, schools and businesses. MECO says the project also will provide the utility the capability of integrating more renewable energy resources into the island’s power grid through improved monitoring and state-of-the-art communications equipment.

“Should a circuit experience a fault, or an abnormal amount of electric current, this substation gives Maui Electric the ability to isolate a problem to only portions of the system and prevent more widespread outages,” the utility said in an announcement.

The substation will be located on 3 acres about 35 feet from Kuihelani Highway. It is considered a “low-profile” substation built compactly and with equipment that won’t be as high as the “high-profile” substation at the intersection of Dairy Road and Hana Highway.

The new substation’s electrical lines will be buried underground and cross under Kuihelani Highway. In former sugar cane fields, there will be six poles and about 500 feet of overhead lines that will connect the substation to an existing transmission line.

Planning was ongoing for landscaping to address security needs and aesthetics.

No extended interruptions of power service are expected, and there should be only minimal impacts to traffic, the company said. Construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

In March 2016, the Public Utilities Commission approved the $13 million substation project. At the time of the approval, state regulators conceded the substation would be needed this year, but they reminded MECO officials that they need to do a better job of planning for a transition to renewable energy.

MECO’s Waiinu substation in Wailuku and its Kanaha substation in Kahului transmit power to about 1,200 homes, businesses and large commercial customers in the Maui Lani area.

“With more than 30 new projects expected in Central Maui, including developing subdivisions, the Kahului Airport rental car facility, the Maui Business Park and the Waiale Water Treatment Facility, the Kuihelani substation will serve this growing area,” the announcement said.

The utility had proposed temporary distributed generation units as part of the project, but they won’t be part of current plans for the substation’s construction.

Recently, the company asked the PUC to suspend a proposal for the generator units while it evaluates other customer options, including the proposed fast demand response program expansion. That program gives business customers incentives to voluntarily reduce their electrical consumption to help keep the grid stable and to prevent outages when power demand exceeds generation capacity.

“As Central Maui continues to develop, the Kuihelani Substation will provide electricity to our growing communities, including areas like Maui Lani,” said Emily Smith, the substation project lead at Maui Electric. “This ensures everyone will continue to receive reliable power when they need it.”