Solar Turning Oahu Brownfield To Brightfield

A former industrial disposal site on Oahu, Hawaii, may soon become home to a solar-power plant. The Hawaiian Electric Company has signed an agreement with Forest City Hawaii to purchase power generated by a 1-megawatt (MW) photovoltaic system at the Kapolei Sustainable Energy Park in Kapolei. The project is expected to be up and running by the end of the year, pending approval by the Hawaiian Public Utilities Commission.

The plant, which will be designed and installed by Hoku Solar, will use more than 4,200 solar panels mounted on a custom-made concrete racking system situated atop the sealed 12-acre brownfield site near the James Campbell Industrial Park. Industrial waste dumping at the site was halted in 1986 under order from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The site was then sealed under a plastic liner and asphalt, and deemed unusable for most forms of development. However, the state’s limited size and need for domestic energy sources prompted the James Campbell Company to propose reclaiming the site as a “brightfield” (a clever name for solar power plant built on a brownfield site).

Oahu solar development

image via Shutterstock

This innovative reuse of industrial property is part of a growing trend toward increased distributed solar electric projects in Hawaii. Oahu alone is home to over 4,000 customer-sited solar electric systems; and Hawaii ranks third in the country in the percentage of total electricity production coming from renewable resources.

However, the state still has a long way to go if it hopes to reach its ambitious goal of generating 70 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2030. Innovative land use projects, such as the Kapolei Sustainable Energy Park, as well as solar canopies, and an aggressive rooftop solar initiative may be essential toward meeting this goal, given the limited amount of land available for commercial development in Hawaii.

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

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