NRG Energy breaks ground on three projects that will boost solar output
One year from now, the sun over Oahu should be generating enough new electricity to power 32,000 homes from three solar farms being resurrected by a subsidiary of Houston- based NRG Energy at a cost of over $300 million.
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One year from now, the sun over Oahu should be generating enough new electricity to power 32,000 homes from three solar farms being resurrected by a subsidiary of Houston-
based NRG Energy at a cost of over $300 million.
The renewable energy firm held a blessing and ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday at one of the project sites in Mililani.
Patrick Sullivan, the company’s vice president of project development, said a tremendous amount of teamwork with Hawaiian Electric Co., state officials, landowners and others went into restarting work on the projects that HECO initially arranged with energy firm SunEdison in late 2014. SunEdison started construction on one project, but got into financial trouble that led to the takeover by NRG.
“This is a proud moment for NRG Renewables just as it is an exciting moment for the citizens of Hawaii who have chosen to lead the nation by example in their unprecedented commitment to achieving 100 percent of their power from renewable resources such as these projects,” he said.
Gov. David Ige said it was an exciting day and noted that
Hawaii remains the only state to set a goal of achieving
100 percent electricity generation from renewable sources.
The three NRG projects will bring the state closer to achieving that. In total, the solar farms will have a 110-megawatt capacity, and one of the three — the 49-megawatt Kawailoa Solar farm with around 500,000 panels near Waialua — will become the largest such project in the state.
A second NRG solar farm in Waipio will have a 45.9 megawatt capacity, and the Mililani project’s capacity will be
Currently the largest solar farm in Hawaii is a 27.6-megawatt project in Waianae owned by San Diego-based Eurus
Energy America Corp. Craig Cornelius, president of NRG
Renewables, said the three new projects will take the state
3 percentage points to 4 percentage points closer to its
100 percent goal. Currently, renewable energy makes up about 20 percent of Oahu’s fuel mix.
The gain may sound like a small amount, but Cornelius said it’s a big step that can power
32,000 homes and reduce about 90,000 tons of carbon from going into the atmosphere. A similar greenhouse gas reduction could be achieved by planting
2 million trees, he added.
Alan Oshima, Hawaiian Electric president and CEO, said 110 megawatts is slightly more than the total 100 megawatts that got added in Hawaii last year through a combination of residential rooftop solar and larger projects. Oshima also said close to 300,000 gallons of fossil fuel won’t have to be imported to make electricity when the three projects are running.
“We really look forward to more projects like this,” he said.
The three NRG projects, which are partially financed by state tax credits, together represent the largest block of solar power to be installed in Hawaii for the lowest price paid by the utility.
HECO took some flak in 2016 when it terminated its agreement with SunEdison, but making a new deal with NRG will save ratepayers money because NRG will sell the power to HECO for less and some of the savings will flow to customers.
HECO will pay NRG around 11 cents per kilowatt-hour for power under contracts running for
22 years — 11 cents at Kawailoa, 11.4 cents at Mililani and 10.4 cents at Waipio — as approved by the state Public Utilities Commission. SunEdison was going to charge 13.5 cents.
The three solar farms cover about 600 acres of farmland once largely planted in sugarcane or pineapple. As part of permit conditions, sheep will be raised on the Kawailoa and Waipio sites in partnership with ranchers.