First utility-scale solar project on Maui to be fully operational in first quarter

Construction on the 2.87-megawatt Kuia Solar project on 12 acres leased from Kamehameha Schools near Lahainaluna High School is nearing completion, according to Maui Electric Co. filings earlier this month with the state Public Utilities Commission. The project is expected to be operational in the first quarter of this year. This photo was taken Jan. 16. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The first utility-scale solar projects on Maui, expected to be operational last month, are projected to achieve commercial operations in the first quarter of this year, filings with the state Public Utilities Commission last week said.

The two 2.87-megawatt solar projects — Kuia Solar near Lahainaluna High School and South Maui Renewable Resources near the Maui Research & Technology Park — initially were expected to be online in December 2016, according to the power purchase agreements with Maui Electric Co.

In PUC filings Jan. 11, MECO reported that as of Dec. 31 construction was complete on SMRR and that the project was undergoing a control systems acceptance test by MECO. Construction on Kuia was “nearing completion,” MECO said.

The filing said commercial operations for both projects were expected in the first quarter. MECO spokeswoman Shayna Decker said Monday that both projects still were not operational.

The power purchase agreements for the solar power projects were approved by the PUC in February 2016. Both SMRR and Kuia are limited partnerships involving Hawaii Pacific Solar LLC and Haleakala Energy Associates LLC, whose owners are Hawaii residents, according to PUC documents.

Tricia Rohlfing, president of both SMRR and Kuia, has said that Hawaii Pacific Solar had partnered with Florida-based Kenyon Energy, which developed and operates a 493-kilowatt solar project in Waianae, Oahu. Kenyon Energy is a national independent power producer providing direct, solar-generated electricity to municipalities, utilities and corporations, according to a news release on its website.

Representatives of the project developers did not respond to queries Thursday afternoon.

The power purchase agreement set a “guaranteed commercial operations date” of Dec. 31, 2016. Delay damages were incurred for another six months, and MECO could have terminated the agreement on June 29.

Instead, MECO amended the agreement, giving the companies until early February to become commercially operational.

Each project was subject to $318.90 per day in damages after the Dec. 31, 2016, guaranteed commercial operations date. Kuia and SMRR each paid $57,402 as of July 31 — a total of $114,804 for the two projects — for “daily delay damages.”

The extension agreement also allowed the developers to pay further delay damages with offsets in charges to MECO for power and allowed MECO to terminate the power purchase agreement beyond the extension period.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.