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Hawaiian Electric proposes ‘self build’ battery storage in Pulehu

Interactive hearing on Akaku April 8

Hawaiian Electric is proposing to “self-build” a 40 megawatt/160 megawatt hour battery storage system at its Waena power station near the Central Maui Landfill in Pulehu that will lead to the closure of the Kahului Power Plant at Kahului Harbor.

Given the current coronavirus restrictions, the utility has changed its public meeting to one conducted on Akaku Community Media Channel 54 at 5:30 p.m. April 8. The public can email questions to mauibess@hawaiianelectric.com and have them answered in real time on the program.

Hawaiian Electric has proposed building this battery storage project as part of the newest round of request for proposals issued in August for 295 gigawatt hours of renewable energy and 58 gigawatt hours of power storage. The utility has put in a bid as part of the RFP process with other private renewable energy companies. The state Public Utilities Commission currently is evaluating bids and a decision is expected May 8, said Kuhea Asiu, community relations specialist at Hawaiian Electric’s Maui County utility operations.

Under the competitive bidding framework, Hawaiian Electric is able to propose “self-build” projects to meet the capacity needs issued in the RFP, Asiu said. The PUC has chosen independent observers and a technical adviser to ensure that all proposals are treated fairly and equitably and will not create technical problems on island grids.

The battery storage system would be built on 1.8 acres of the 65 acre site at Waena with access off Pulehu Road. The system will consist of 48 battery modules, each about the size of a shipping container, built by a Nevada manufacturer, Asiu and the utility’s preliminary environmental assessment said. The site, which was offered to all developers, is owned by Hawaiian Electric and zoned appropriately for industrial use.

The utility also would be building an electrical switchyard on 3 acres nearby to deliver the power to the grid, the preliminary environmental assessment said.

Because of the competitive bidding process, the utility could not disclose the cost of the project, Asiu said.

If Hawaiian Electric wins the bid, the utility will file an application with the PUC in the summer. After approval by the panel, the utility hopes to begin construction in early 2022 with a contractual operation date of April 2023.

The 40 MW project was sized to replace the 37.6 MW capacity of the 72-year-old Kahului Power Plant, which the utility hopes to retire in 2024, Asiu said. The plant was deactivated in February 2014 but was reactivated in fall 2016 with the closing of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., which sold power to Hawaiian Electric.

There is an urgency to retire the old power plant by 2024 to comply with mandatory National Pollution Discharge Elimination System requirements, PUC filings said.

Hawaiian Electric’s self-build bid proposal is unrelated to the opposition and ongoing contested case against the Paeahu Solar project, being proposed by Innergex Renewables on Ulupalakua Ranch land above Maui Meadows, said Asiu.

Comments on the proposed Maui BESS are being accepted through May 8 and may be emailed to mauibess@hawaiianelectric.com.

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

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