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Hawaiian Electric requests approval to move forward with 15-megawatt solar energy project

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Download printable version (pdf)
October 23, 2013  
   
Contact:
Darren Pai
Phone:  (808) 543-7753
Email:  darren.pai@hawaiianelectric.com
 


HONOLULU, Oct. 23, 2013 – As part of its commitment to bring more low-cost clean energy online, Hawaiian Electric Company has filed a request with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to proceed with the development of a 15-megawatt photovoltaic system on undeveloped land at the Kahe Generating Station.

Developing the project on land owned by Hawaiian Electric helps to reduce the cost to customers. Based on preliminary estimates, the project, over its lifespan, would reduce the overall cost of generating electricity on Oahu by $64 million while displacing approximately 1.8 million gallons of oil per year.

This level of savings is equivalent to a 20-year power purchase agreement with a price of 14.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. That is significantly less than the cost of using oil to produce power, which is currently estimated at 22.7 cents per kWh.

“This is a unique opportunity that benefits our customers because it allows us to quickly develop more low-cost clean energy,” said Ron Cox, Hawaiian Electric vice president of power supply.

SolarCity, with local operations in Mililani, was selected through a competitive procurement process to construct the 50-acre PV project. Hawaiian Electric would own and operate the system.

“Hawaiian Electric’s project is proof that solar power can protect Hawaii’s environment and strengthen its economy at the same time by providing clean energy less expensively than power generated from fossil fuels,” said Jon Yoshimura, SolarCity’s regional director in Hawaii. “The SolarCity team in Mililani is honored to be selected for this project and we’re excited to work with Hawaiian Electric to deliver more clean, homegrown energy to Oahu residents.”

The project would include equipment for safe connection to the grid and would directly connect at Hawaiian Electric’s 46 kilovolt substation at Kahe power plant. As a result, it will not currently impact residential or commercial customers who wish to install PV systems on their rooftops, which connect through Hawaiian Electric’s 12 kV distribution system.

The request filed by Hawaiian Electric asks the PUC to grant a waiver from competitive bidding for projects larger than 5 MW. A waiver would allow customers to more quickly benefit from more low-cost renewable energy and reduce project costs by enabling Hawaiian Electric to use federal tax credits, which could be reduced or eliminated. Pending regulatory approval and the completion of necessary environmental and cultural reviews, the system is expected to be operational by the end of 2015.

This project is Hawaiian Electric’s latest effort to lower bills for customers, improve service, and develop more low-cost clean energy resources. Other recent actions include:

  • Pursuing, pending Public Utilities Commission approval, five new low-cost renewable energy projects on Oahu – including four solar farms and one wind farm – with a combined capacity of 64 MW
  • Continuing to help customers install PV projects (through September 2013, there were more than 35,000 installed PV systems across the companies’ service territories with a combined capacity of approximately 260 MW)
  • Planning the deactivation of older, less efficient utility generating units on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island for a combined 226 MW – about 14 percent of generation owned by the utilities
  • Working with the State of Hawai?i and other stakeholders to pursue cleaner and lower-cost liquefied natural gas to replace more expensive petroleum fuels in our generating units