Hawaiian Electric’s renewable energy upgrades on Maui approved

Calls for conversions to Kahului Power Plant generators

Release Date: 12/21/2021

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KAHULUI, Dec. 21, 2021 – As part of its transition to using more renewable energy and cutting carbon emissions to power Maui, Hawaiian Electric’s plans to build a new switchyard and make equipment modifications to two of the four retiring oil-firing generating units at the Kahului Power Plant were recently approved by the Public Utilities Commission.

Submitted last year and estimated to cost approximately $38.8 million, the upgrades are part of the company’s plans to reduce its overall carbon footprint by 70% by 2030 when compared to 2005 levels and to achieve a renewable portfolio standard of 100% by 2045.

The Waena Switchyard will be located on company-owned property along Pulehu Road in Central Maui and will resemble a substation. With the retirement of all generation in Kahului, the new switchyard is essential for controlling the flow of electricity from other generation resources. Such resources include renewable energy projects as well as the company’s Maalaea Generating Station and the proposed Waena battery energy storage system currently under review by the PUC.

The conversion of two of four KPP units to non-generating synchronous condensers will involve installation of start-up motors to use the units to control voltage and maintain inertia on the system without the use of fuel oil. The two remaining KPP units will be permanently shut down and no longer able to generate electricity. The current KPP facility will house the synchronous condensers and other equipment used to support the electrical system.

As the oldest power plant on Maui, with the first generating unit placed in service in 1948, KPP’s four steam-generating units currently provide power and system stability on the island’s transmission system. The system serves more than 13,700 residential and business customers in Central Maui, including critical infrastructure such as Kahului Harbor, County of Maui water facilities and wastewater treatment pumps.

As part of the plans to no longer generate electricity at KPP, Hawaiian Electric is working to replace the voltage support and system inertia that KPP provides as well as to ensure proper flows of electricity from other sources to all customers. The company is also working to procure replacement generation resources through large-scale renewable energy and battery projects. At this time, five contracts for solar and battery projects in Central, South and West Maui have been approved by the PUC and are in various stages of permitting.

The upgrades are slated to be completed and online in 2024.