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Solar Array with Battery Storage Planned on Moloka‘i

MECO file courtesy photo

Maui Electric Company has agreed to buy electricity from a grid-scale solar and battery energy storage facility to be built by Moloka‘i New Energy Partners, a project that could lower the island’s electric bills.

If approved by the Public Utilities Commission, the 2.7-megawatt project is expected to be in service by the end of 2019. It would be the island’s first large-scale solar facility and would include a 3-megawatt battery energy storage system.

Assuming application of a federal New Markets Tax Credit provided by Punawai ‘O Pu‘uhonua, a Hawai‘i-based Community Development Entity, the project would provide savings to the island’s 3,200 customers every year of the life of the 22-year contract. The project would provide energy from its solar array and battery at a rate of about 17 cents per kilowatt hour, less than the present cost of diesel generation.

The project would be located on land owned by Moloka‘i Ranch adjacent to Maui Electric’s Pala‘au Power Plant.

“This agreement is an important step as we continue to work with the Moloka‘i community in reaching 100 percent renewable energy for the island,” said Sharon Suzuki, president of Maui Electric. “As part of these efforts, our goal is to always look for lower prices for clean energy that will benefit all of our customers over the life of our contracts.”

Maui Electric takes no profit on electricity purchased from independent power producers.

“Our Moloka‘i New Energy Partners team is very pleased to be able to provide a cost effective solar energy solution,” said Charles Magolske, the team leader from Moloka‘i New Energy Partners. “We are grateful for the amazing support we have received from the community, the strong technical relationship we have enjoyed with Maui Electric, as well as Punawai ‘O Pu‘uhonua for the New Markets Tax Credit that helps make the low costs possible.”

As a Community Development Entity, Punawai ‘O Pu‘uhonua is responsible for the management of New Markets Tax Credits that support the creation of jobs, goods and services in lower-income communities in Hawai‘i.

“We’re grateful to support the community of Moloka‘i, Maui Electric and Moloka‘i New Energy Partners with an allocation of New Markets Tax Credits for this project,” said Pono Shim, manager of Punawai ‘O Pu‘uhonua. “We’re also excited to be a partnership that recognizes the privilege of being in the Moloka‘i community.”

In recent years, Moloka‘i’s small island grid has seen one of the highest amounts of solar penetration in the state, raising issues of system reliability. The Moloka‘i New Energy Partners’ proposed battery system has the potential to store the energy produced from the project’s solar array and discharge it during peak demand periods, such as the early evening hours, or when needed.

Maui Electric is taking a multi-faceted approach to helping the island community reach its 100 percent clean energy goals. This approach includes continuous outreach and discussions with the community; seeking alternative financing possibilities through available tax credits and third-party grants; implementing innovative utility-sited solutions and piloting new customer options to prepare the Moloka‘i grid to take on more renewable energy.

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