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Isle’s largest solar project slated for old sugar fields

Meeting set for 60-MW photo-voltaic, 240-mWh battery storage facilty

Maui’s largest solar and battery project is slated for a maximum of 500 acres of old Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. fields along Kuihelani Highway in Central Maui, AES Distributed Energy announced Thursday.

The 60-megawatt photovoltaic system with 240 megawatt hours of battery storage is far larger than the next largest project in the solar power pipeline, Innergex Renewables 15-MW solar and 60-mWh battery project in Ulupalakua.

Both projects were among seven awarded on Maui and Hawaii island by Hawaiian Electric Cos., the parent company of Maui Electric, last month.

AES will hold a community meeting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at Pomaikai Elementary School in Maui Lani.

The approximately 200,000 solar panels are slated for land to be leased from Alexander & Baldwin on the east side of Kuihelani Highway, south of the intersection of the highway and East Waiko Road, the Colorado-based AES said.

Rob Cooper, business development manager for AES Distributed Energy, said Thursday that the exact acreage will be refined as planning continues for the project. He could not disclose the lease terms, which currently are under negotiation.

AES also is in negotiations with MECO on the terms of a power purchase agreement. Those negotiations are anticipated to be completed by the end of the year. The term of the agreement will be for 25 years.

Construction is expected to begin in 2020 with commercial operations in 2021 or 2022, AES said.

The 60-MW system will produce enough electricity to power 18,000 homes per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies calculator, AES said.

The battery system will store and shift solar energy production to times without sun, especially during peak power use during the evening, AES said.

Comments on the project may be emailed to KuihelaniSolar@aes.com. The deadline for public comment is Dec. 15.

Innergex held a public meeting in Kihei on Tuesday. Comments may be emailed to hawaiisolar@innergex.com.

AES has had a Hawaii presence for more than 25 years. AES currently is putting the finishing touches on a 28-MW solar and 100-mWh battery storage system on Kauai, which is expected to be completed this year.

It is a subsidiary of The AES Corp., which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The parent company has energy projects in 16 countries, employs 10,500 people and logged $14 billion in revenues in 2016, a company news release said.

The first utility-scale solar projects on Maui went online earlier this year. The 2.87-MW Ku’ia Solar near Lahainaluna High went online last month. Its sister project, the 2.87-MW South Maui Renewable Resources near the Maui Research & Technology Park, went online in May.

On Molokai, a power purchase agreement for a 2.64 MW with 3-mWh battery storage project was approved by the state Public Utilities Commission in late July. The project is owned and operated by Moloka’i New Energy Partners, a Chicago-based Half Moon Ventures company. It is expected to be in service next year.

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

** This story includes a correction from the original published Friday, Nov. 2, 2018.

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