Lihu‘e Costco to go solar by January

Following in the footsteps of the Kona location, the Lihu‘e Costco is going solar.

Installation of the solar electric system began in early October and is expected to go live in January.

Craig Peal, Costco’s assistant vice president of energy and building controls, said they are holding off on the debut until after holidays due to unfinished paperwork.

“All the panels are bolted down and the wires are connected,” Drew Bradley, construction manager of REC Solar, said. “We’re just working on the communication system and some finishing touches.”

The Kaua‘i warehouse is one of four locations to be outfitted with photovoltaics, but not the first.

Earlier this year, Costco hired San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based REC Solar to install a total of 2.5 megawatts of solar electricity on two Costco locations in California and two in Hawai‘i.

The Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco Wholesale Corp. chose the Big Island store for the company’s first solar system and started installation after Labor Day.

“Hawai‘i is one of the best places to go solar,” Natalie Rozier, REC Solar spokeswoman, said.

According to Peal, Costco decided to install the system in Hawai‘i because pilot projects in California met expectations.

“We evaluated it and it seemed like a great opportunity to reduce operating costs,” Peal said.

According to Steve Rymsha, staff engineer at Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative, the Lihu‘e Costco will not be exporting any power back to the utility company.

The Lihu‘e system, which measures 148,000 square feet, is a 680 kW (DC) solar electric, consisting of 3,888 Mitsubishi 175UD4 panels, two Xantrex 225S-480-P inverters and one Xantrex 100S-480-P inverter. It has a web-based monitoring system that will allow Costco to track and store the its energy output.

Solar power in Hawai‘i is also makes business sense, Rozier said, considering the state and federal tax credits. The Hawai‘i Solar and Wind Energy Credit allows individuals or corporations to claim up to 35 percent or $500,000, which ever is less, of the cost of equipment and installation. On the federal level, commercial owners of solar power systems receive a 30 percent tax credit after the first year.

“Costco should be applauded for doing it (installing a solar electric power system),” Bradley said. “There should be a lot more companies doing it and taking advantage of the sunshine.”

• Rachel Gehrlein, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or


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