About 200,000 solar panels may soon cover about 160 open acres of land laced with kiawe trees and brush that stretch from the edges of Kamaile Academy to the base of the Waianae Mountains.
The 27.6-megawatt project is one of eight large solar farms planned for Oahu that are expected to break ground by the end of the year in order to take advantage of lucrative federal tax credits. Hawaiian Electric Co. announced that it had signed agreements to purchase the energy by December and the applications are currently awaiting approval by the Public Utilities Commission.
The PUC is expected to rule on each project separately.
If the projects move forward, their total area will span a total of about 1,400 acres, the size of 25 Ala Moana shopping centers, according to a review of applications filed with the PUC. The bulk of the solar panels will dot agricultural fields throughout central Oahu and along the North Shore, in addition to two projects planned for Waianae.
At peak production, during the middle of the day when the sun is strongest, the panels are expected to supply more than one-eighth of Oahu’s electricity needs, according to HECO.
Some Community Opposition
While the projects will help the state meet its goals of developing more sources of local renewable energy and weaning Hawaii of of its dependence on foreign oil,
Big Island business and community leaders have formed a nonprofit coop called the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative to explore taking over Hawaii Electric Light Co., a subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Co.
The co-op would be owned by ratepayers, similar to the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative. However, the co-op is interested all of the island’s energy sectors not just the electric grid.
The co-op association emerged in recent weeks with the announcement that Florida-based NextEra Energy has entered into an agreement to purchase HECO — a deal that is expected to close by the end of the year. Last week, the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative submitted an application to Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission, which must approve the sale, to intervene in the review of the merger.
The Big Island co-op, in seeking to intervene in proceedings, is not taking a position for or against the sale, according to a press release issued by the co-op on Tuesday
“We seek to participate in the discussion of the unique perspective of the residents of our island, and if appropriate, explore an option that would make for a fundamental change in the landscape of energy production and consumption on Hawaii Island,” HIEC director Marco Mangelsdorf said in the press release. “Being able to have more direct control over Hawaii Island’s present and future energy profile would provide us with an extraordinary opportunity to showcase what can be done on our island on many different and innovative levels.”
Mangelsdorf is also the president of
Some pills are easier to swallow with a spoonful of euphemistic language.
Such is the case in the proposed sale of Hawaiian Electric Industries to Florida-based NextEra Energy.
Company officials have carefully crafted their public messages to make the $4.3 billion deal go down easier in Hawaii, where residents can be quite sensitive to losing control of anything to the mainland, a lingering hangover from the United States overthrowing the kingdom in 1893.
They are framing the transaction as a “partnership” between the two companies that will benefit everyone — shareholders, ratepayers, even the environment.
That may all hold true, considering the vast resources NextEra brings to the table. But the parties are not exactly being forthright by calling the deal a “partnership” or “combination” as they have in full-page newspaper ads, press conferences and letters to hundreds of thousands of customers.
After all, when a sale is completed, the buyer is the owner.
During a press conference announcing the deal Dec. 3, HEI President and CEO Connie Lau and NextEra Chairman and CEO Jim Robo were asked how the media should describe the transaction.
Lau likened it to a “marriage and dating.” Robo called it “a combination of Hawaiian Electric with NextEra.”
Electricity rates have been rising in Hawaii over the last five years, adding to the high cost of living.
Technological advances could spur more people in Hawaii to abandon HECO.
The PUC takes actions that could dramatically change how HECO moves forward with renewable energy plans.
Utility says it’s discussion needed on boosting costs for homeowners and businesses with solar panels.
By sapping energy commission funding, are lawmakers robbing Paul to pay Peter, and leaving us to foot the bill?
Could your power bills go down as PUC regulators hint at new era of assertive, but fair, leadership? We may find out.
Your electric bills and the state’s clean energy future rest in the hands of three people.
The tax department’s more restrictive tax rules will remain in effect.
Input from 68-member advisory group seems to have little impact on the direction of energy policy.