KIUC and HCDC Launch Hawaii’s Largest Solar Project

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01.19.2012
Līhu‘e, Hawaii  United States

KIUC and HCDC award installation to REC Solar for a 12-megawatt solar project, the largest solar project in the state, on Hawaiian Homelands in Anahola on the northeast side of Kauai. The two companies held a kick-off meeting with Homestead Community Development Corporation to coordinate the next steps on the project.  

The partnership between HCDC and KIUC was formed in August of 2011 to explore whether a project was feasible on Hawaiian homelands that would mutually benefit the co-op, the people of Kauai and the Hawaiian Home Land Trust created by Congress in 1920. Through a competitive bidding process, REC Solar was awarded the contract for the project in December. This facility will bring KIUC’s integrated solar capacity to nearly 20 MW, and is the second utility-scale project REC Solar has developed for KIUC. The two partners previously collaborated on a 1.21 MW system in Kapaa.

"The growth of the solar industry is due in part to the aggressive actions from forward-thinking utilities like KIUC," said Lee Johnson, CEO of REC Solar. "This coalition demonstrates the innovative spirit and concern for the environment that has made Hawaii home to the nation's second highest installed solar capacity per capita, and we are excited to move this project forward. Solar is a bankable, proven way to grow KIUC’s renewable generation portfolio and meet the energy needs of Hawaii.”

 “When the project is successfully developed, KIUC will have more PV concentration than any utility in the U.S,” said David Bissell, KIUC president and CEO.

The cooperative obtained approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service to reallocate $68 million of previously approved loan funds to construct integrated photovoltaic and battery energy storage systems on Kaua‘i. A portion of this reallocation will be used to fund the project. The funds originally were approved for a 10 MW combustion turbine generator often referred to as Gen X or CT2.

“The benefits are significant,” said Phil Tacbian, KIUC board chairman. “By using the RUS-approved funds for solar development, the cooperative effectively shelves the combustion turbine plant and moves closer to giving our members the clean, renewable energy they have asked for.”

A majority of KIUC’s generation today still comes from fossil fuels, but the co-op has actively expanded its portfolio of renewable technologies. KIUC now has a combined 17 MW of PV and biomass-fired generation projects under power purchase agreements. About 35 MW of low-impact hydropower projects are being studied to determine whether additional clean, renewable hydropower can be feasibly developed on Kaua‘i.

In a release from HCDC, Brad Rockwell, KIUC project manager, described the kick-off meeting as an important starting point “to ensure all of us are working toward common goals, and included the environmental assessment firm, the contractor REC Solar and, of course our KIUC-HCDC team.”  The project’s next steps include conducting an environmental assessment; assembling a cultural assessment team knowledgeable of the Anahola area in place; and mapping out a job fair and employment outreach in the months ahead.