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PUC approves 6 additional solar-plus-storage systems in Hawaii

The Public Utilities Commission has approved contracts for six additional grid-scale, solar-plus-battery storage projects, according to the Hawaiian Electric Companies.

Three projects on Oahu, including one that has generated controversy because part of it is planned on prime agricultural land, one on Maui, and two on Hawaii island, are expected to add 247 megawatts of solar energy with almost 1 gigawatt-hour of storage to the grid.

Currently, Ho‘ohana Solar 1, a 52-megawatt farm, is planned for a parcel zoned as prime agricultural land in Kunia, where renewable energy projects are currently not permitted. At the same time, a bill making its way through the state Legislature that would allow developers to place solar farms on prime agricultural land faces stiff opposition.

Hawaiian Electric says the contract approved by the PUC specifies that site control and all necessary permits are the sole responsibility of 174 Power Global, the developer. The PUC stated it did not have jurisdiction over decisions related to land use, and that if there was a delay or termination of Ho‘ohana’s contract, it expects Hawaiian Electric would “expeditiously pursue alternatives” for the project.

Hawaiian Electric spokesman Peter Rosegg said no substantial investment has been made on the project yet other than contract work.

“We don’t pay a penny on anything until the electricity starts to flow,” said Rosegg. “Our concern is twofold. We want to get the renewable energy if we possibly can, and protect customers and the company from liability. We’re confident we’re in a good position on that. Whether they [174 Power Global] can get that approval, what happens to the bill…it is their sole responsibility”

Hawaiian Electric billed the six projects as the “largest and lowest-cost portfolio of renewable energy resources to be assembled at one time in Hawaii.” Collectively, they should be able to power 105,000 homes per year.

The projects, the result of a procurement effort that began in February 2018, are expected to provide stable, long-term prices in place of the volatile prices of fossil fuels, which are passed on to the consumer with no mark-up or profit to the utility, Hawaiian Electric said. Each comes with battery storage that can store four hours of energy, which is available during peak demand in the evening or times of the day when the sun is not shining.

“We really appreciate the PUC moving so quickly to review and approve these projects, which enables the developers to meet the aggressive schedule that was set up to take advantage of federal tax credits,” said Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president of business development and strategic planning, in a news release. “The sooner these projects are delivering energy to customers, the sooner they’ll see savings.”

The six solar-plus-battery project contracts that were approved by the PUC include:

>> Waikoloa Solar on Hawaii island, by AES, 30 MW with 120 MWh storage, 8 cents per kilowatt-hour

>> Hale Kuawehi on Hawaii island, by Innergex, 30 MW with 120 MWh storage, 9 cents per kilowatt-hour

>> Kuihelani Solar on Maui, by AES, 60 MW with 240 MWh storage, 8 cents per kilowatt-hour

>> Ho‘ohana Solar 1 on Oahu, by 174 Power Global, 52 MW with 208 MWh storage, 10 cents per kilowatt-hour

>> Mililani I Solar on Oahu, by Clearway, 39 MW with 156 MWh storage, 9 cents per kilowatt-hour

>> Waiawa Solar on Oahu, by Clearway, 36 MW with 144 MWh storage, 10 cents per kilowatt-hour

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