Solar Solace: Kauai’i Looks To Ditch Oil

Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC), a customer-owned utility company responsible for delivering power on the small island at the northern-most reach of the Hawaiian archipelago, spends between $60 million and $100 million each year on oil to run electric generators. Like many other islands facing the rising price of oil, Kaua’i is turning to renewable energy technologies like photovoltaics (PV) to meet its energy needs.

KIUC has announced that it has issued a request for proposals for the development of a 10-megawatt (MW) PV project with battery storage. Upon completion, the project will be the largest PV facility in Hawaii. The co-op now has about 17 MW of solar PV and biomass-fired generation projects under power purchase agreements, and is also studying the feasibility of contracting with approximately 35 MW of low-impact hydropower projects. According to KIUC President David Bissell, the addition of the new PV project would give KIUC the highest concentration of solar PV of any utility in the United States.

image via KIUC

In order to build the facility, KIUC is utilizing some creative financing strategies. First, it is seeking to reallocate up to $68 million of federal loan funds, which were previously approved for a 10-megawatt combustion turbine generator. Second, in order for the co-op to qualify for federal and state tax incentives, KIUC’s board of directors formed a for-profit subsidiary, KIUC Renewable Solutions One. KIUC expects that up to 50 percent of the cost of the PV portion of the plant will be paid for by the incentives.

“With wind power not feasible due to endangered species concerns, combining solar PV with the battery energy storage system moves us closer to the board’s strategic goal of 50 percent renewable by 2023,” said KIUC Board Chairman Phil Tacbian. “If we are able to develop additional low-impact, clean hydropower later this decade, we will get there ahead of schedule.”

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).

    • Feed In Tariff Solar Panels

      A great scheme – look forward to following its progress…

    • Michael Siani-Rose

      Wouldn’t it be amazing to get a whole island off the (petroleum) grid?!