By D.A. Barber
The abundant supply of sunshine throughout the Hawaiian Islands as well as new regulations and economic incentives that support solar power projects has positioned the American state to offset a substantial portion of their fossil fuel usage that supplies the population’s energy today. The U.S. state is actively pursuing a clean energy economy in order to reach a goal of 70 percent clean energy by 2030.
Hawaiiis ranked No. 1 in the United States for investment in energy savings performance contracting (ESPC) for public buildings per capita, according to a ranking published by the Energy Services Coalition. ESPC uses guaranteed future energy and water utility bill savings to pay for the up-front capital costs of facility improvements and Hawaii’s overall conservation investment exceeds $150 million.
Hawaiiis also home to the second-highest installed solar capacity per capita
in the United States and is currently a national leader in the adoption of PV power systems. Hawaii is also one of the few places in the U.S. where the lifecycle cost of PVs is less than that of utility-distributed electricity, which is primarily based on fossil-fuel technology on the islands. Meanwhile, the non-profit Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, owned and operated by the electricity users it serves, recently announced they have moved closer to their target of having 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2023.KIUC now has a combined 17MW of PV and biomass-fired generation projects under power purchase agreements.
The Hawaiian Electric Co. started a program in early February 2012 that will add more solar, wind, and other renewable energy to the grid while also saving business customers some money. The utility announced it will award credits of up to $3,000 per year to commercial and industrial customers who allow some of their air conditions, pool heaters and other non-essential equipment normally requiring 50 kilowatts to be turned off during peak demand periods or during low supplies of renewable energy availability.
In order to maintain the speedy development of these projects, Hawaii has also aggressively undertaken a move to tackle the crucial infrastructure question of developing a “smart grid.”
“The state currently has approximately 80 renewable energy projects in various stages of development in the queue,” noted state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism Director Richard Lim on February 3, 2012.“Building a smart grid system will help us manage the power that is generated by renewable resources, which means more projects can come to fruition.”
Hawaii’s Top 40
Renewable energy is one of Hawaii’s fastest-growing industries and to make the point, the State Energy Office created its own “Top 40” list that identifies the 40 renewable energy projects that the state believes will make the biggest impact on achieving Hawaii’s future energy goals under the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative. The state based their list on criteria such as projected size, status of permitting, power purchase agreements and site control. The list includes 16 projects on Oahu, 10 on Kauai, 8 on the Big Island, 4 on Maui, and 1 each on Molokai and Lanai. These include 7 solar projects, as well as 8 each using wind and biofuel, and 6 hydroelectric projects.
MicroCSP collectors in use at Keahole Solar Power's
Holaniku installation located on the Big Island of Hawaii.
InSeptember 2010,Keahole Solar Power signed an accord with Hawaii’s Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for property to build the Kalaeloa Solar One, 5MW micro-Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) project on the island of Oahu. The project was completed during the third part of 2011 and will eventually contribute 30MW of power by the year 2015.Kalaeloa Solar Two, being developed by SunPower and the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, is a 5MW PV plant being built on a DHHL parcel adjacent to Kalaeloa Solar One.
Work on the largest Hawaiian solar project was launched in February 2012by Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC)and REC Solar. The 12MW solar project is located in Anahola on the northeast side of Kauai and when finished it will bring KIUC’s solar capacity to nearly 20MW. The partnership between the Homestead Community Development Corporation (HCDC) - the tax exempt development arm of the Anahola Hawaiian Homes Association of Kauai - was formed in August of 2011. The contract was given to California-based installer REC Solar, the second time the two worked together since they collaborated on a 1.2MW system in Kapaa. The new project uses $68 million obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service, which was reallocated from funds previously approved to construct a now scrapped 10MW “Gen X” fossil fuel turbine generator. The new solar project is expected to power about 8,000 homes and replace KIUC’s oil-powered generators, which currently cost tens of millions of dollars to operate.
Other solar projects on the State Energy Office’s Top 40 include:
Castle & Cooke’s four, 5MW PV solar farms to be built on about 120 acres at the Mililani Agricultural Park on Oahuand will generate up to 20MW, enough to power 6,000 homes.
Port Allen Solar Facility Kauai is a 6MW facility to be built on 20 acres of industrial land next to KIUC’s Port Allen Station Power plant and is expected to be completed at the end of 2012 pending permitting and regulatory approvals.
Scatec/Hunt Oahu Solarhas proposed a 21,000-module PV system on 20 acres of a former U.S. Marine Corps WW2 battlefield. Scatec Solar North America and Hunt ELP are partnering on the 5.9MW PV solar farm, which will provide enough power for up to 5,000 homes.
On Oahu, a fixed-tilt 5MW PV project, the largest to achieve a power purchase agreement in Hawaii, will be built on a 20-acre solar farm in Campbell Industrial Park and is owned by Axio Power Holdings, LLC.
Kikialoa Solar, developed by Pacific Energy Partners, is a Kauai PV solar farm planned on 20 acres of former sugarcane land in Kekaha. When completed, the 5MW facility is expected power up to 1,000 Kauai homes.
Kauai Island Utility Cooperative has partnered with Poipu Solar LLC, AES Solar Power, and Knudsen Trust Land Kauai to develop a PV power plant that will power more than 850 homes. The 3MW facility will be integrated with a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) installed by KIUC at the interconnection point to the grid.
Anahola Solar Kauai is a 12MW project being developed by the Homestead Community Development Corporation in partnership with KIUC, KRS One LLC, and REC Solar. The $50 million project is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.
Smart Grid Development with Korea
On February 3, 2012, Governor Neil Abercrombie and Choi Kyu-Chong, Director of the Electricity Market and Smart Grid Division at the Republic of Korea Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE) signed a letter of intent to pursue smart grid development in the Hawaiian Islands. The next step is for both parties to collaborate on a more detailed plan by October 31, 2012, including the project’s scope, location and resource contributions.
MKE and its Korea Smart Grid Institute (KSGI) created South Korea’s “Smart Grid Roadmap,” a plan to develop and implement a nationwide smart grid in that country by 2030. The two organizations are also currently leading over 170 South Korean companies in the deployment of the $240 million Jeju Island Test Bed, a 6,000-household smart grid project that should be completed in South Korea by 2013.
The collaboration with South Korea is in addition to another smart grid project that is currently taking place on Maui through an agreement formed in November 2011 with Japan-based New Energy and Industrial Technology Development.
KIUC plans to install about 33,000 smart meters, as well as upgrade their grid infrastructure to allow two-way communications between the smart meters and the utility.The project will help integrate homeowner’s smart appliances, electric cars, and other technologies and allow the utility to carry out remote meter readings, detect household level outages, as well as evaluate electric rate structures. The five-year project will is estimated to involve two years of installation and three years of data gathering and analysis.
Hawaii is ground zero for literally all forms of renewable energy development because the small island chain actually has the potential to develop not just solar power, but power from all the current renewable energy technologies, including geothermal, wind, hydro, tidal & wave, and even biomass if they choose to utilize waste from sugarcane farming operations. With that potential, it seems likely that that Hawaii could become the first U.S. state to actually reach a point where large-scale renewable energy power plants, as well as construction of "net-zero energy" buildings, generate more energy each year than is actually needed to meet their current electricity needs.
Smart grid development is essential to utility-scale solar development and Hawaii, with its strategic Pacific location, has been able to easily partner with both South Korea and Japan on smart grid projects – a partnership virtually un-heard of on the U.S. mainland.
“We are delighted that the Republic of Korea has seen the value of partnering with Hawaii on a mutually beneficial smart grid development project,” Hawaii Governor Abercrombie said at the signing of the agreement. “Partnerships like this show the world just how serious Hawaii is about our commitment to building a leading clean energy economy through clean energy demonstration and implementation. We are building an energy legacy for our state that will benefit the people of Hawaii for generations.”