Officials on Kauai held an opening ceremony for the island’s first utility-scale solar farm yesterday.
The completed facility — capable of producing enough electricity to power 300 homes — will begin operations once the Public Utilities Commission gives it the green light.
The 1.21-megawatt system is connected to the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative grid.
The solar farm is owned by Kapaa Solar LLC, which will sell the power to KIUC for about 20 cents a kilowatt-hour under a long-term power purchase agreement. REC Solar Hawaii designed and built the system with 5,376 photovoltaic panels on about five acres of nonproductive agricultural land near Kapaa. The solar farm has the capacity to produce 1.8 megawatts of electricity annually.
"Creating more renewable energy alternatives is one of the most critical challenges we face," Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho said at a dedication ceremony for the solar farm.
KIUC has committed to generating 50 percent of the island’s power from renewable sources by 2023. Excluding the new solar farm, KIUC’s current energy production from renewable sources consists of 9 megawatts of electricity from hydroelectric projects.
The next large-scale renewable energy project scheduled for Kauai is a 3-megawatt solar farm planned for the southern side of the island. Construction is expected to begin this year.
The Kapaa solar farm will allow KIUC to better understand the physical limitations of photovoltaic power on the utility’s distribution network, said David Bissell, acting president and CEO.
KIUC also has plans to increase the amount of hydroelectric power produced on the island. KIUC has partnered with Massachusetts-based Free Flow Power Corp. to explore the development of four hydroelectric projects on rivers and streams across Kauai that could generate enough electricity to power roughly 13,000 homes.
KIUC’s plans would add another 24 megawatts of hydroelectric generation from facilities planned for the Hanalei, Wailua and Makaweli rivers as well as at Kokee Ditch.