Energy alternatives possible

Kauai Island Utility Cooperative has selected four proposals from developers of alternative energy sources that may assist the island’s electric utility decrease its dependence on fossil fuels.

“Right now we get 93 percent of our energy from burning fossil fuels,” said KIUC staff engineer Jeff Deren. “If all of these projects come on-line that number will be down to around 55 percent.”

“We hope to have them in service on dates starting in July 2008 to some time in 2010,” said Ann Barnes, communications manager at KIUC. “This is an enormous step for us in getting away from fossil fuels.”

The four proposals chosen include one to utilize wind power, two that will utilize biomass technology and one municipal solid waste plant. The four were culled from 20 proposals submitted for KIUC’s “Request For Proposals” process.

One of the projects will be a 10 to 14 megawatt wind turbine farm. Deren did not want to reveal where the wind turbines will be placed yet, but said “the developer has a letter of intent from the land owner.”

He estimates that seven turbines will be installed. “Wind is intermittent and the developer will first need to go through six to 12 months of wind monitoring (to determine best placement),” Deren said.

And that is not to mention the permitting that will be required. “There are lots of hurdles the developers will have to overcome still for all of the proposals,” Deren said. “There are purchase power negotiations, and the developers have to do several things: an interconnection study that will determine the impact on our system, they need to specify equipment, and there is a whole slew of permits and environmental reports.”

Two of the projects will focus on biomass technology. Biomass is energy produced by burning a waste product that is organic, or growing a dedicated crop to be burned in the process.

Deren said both biomass projects here will generate power by burning an organic waste product. One of them is a 4.2 megawatt project that will require dismantling a power plant off-island, shipping it to Kaua’i and reassembling it here. “That project will burn a waste product imported from the Mainland until the developer acquires a local fuel source,” Deren said.

The other biomass project will generate 7.5 megawatts. The larger biomass project has secured a local source of fuel, Barnes said.

KIUC has a peak production capacity of 75,000 megawatts, and 1 megawatt is equal to the electricity it takes to power 1,000 homes.

“If all of these are successful it could provide 45 percent of our island load, and save us 300,000 barrels of oil a year,” said Barnes.

The final proposal that is moving into the project stage is a municipal solid waste plant. “The municipal solid waste generates power from burning the trash we throw away,” Deren said. “The developer still needs to secure a source of fuel for that one.”

The power plants in all four projects will be owned by the developer. “Our next step is to create purchase power agreements,” Deren said.

Purchase power agreements establish a contract between the developer of the power source and the purchaser of the energy, KIUC.

The whole focus of the RFP process is energy only, he said. “We will be purchasing the energy, not the capacity,” Deren said.

With these projects the out-put is not firm, so the capacity can not be used in planning. “We cannot include a wind turbine to be firm capacity,” Deren said.

The engineer said that one of the developers is on Kaua’i and another is in the state. The other two are Mainland companies.

KIUC plans to hold public, informational meetings on the projects in the future. As of yet, none of those meetings have been scheduled.

Barnes said she is ecstatic about how far the process has come already, yet both she and Deren said there is a long way to go.

Back when KIUC was still a private, for-profit company called Kauai Electric, the alternative energy RFP process had gotten to the purchase power agreements stage — one stage beyond where the current process remains.

“We actually had purchase power agreements signed by a wind developer and a municipal solid waste developer, but the developers had trouble finding a site and it was right about the time we were switching over to a co-op and the funding fell through,” Deren said.

That will be another of the developers responsibility — finding the funding to make their projects realities.


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