KIUC seeking land for solar farm

The Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative is pursuing roughly 160 acres in Kekaha for a solar farm of 10 to 30 megawatt

The co-op is floating the idea of subletting land for the project from the Westside seed companies, which lease from the state for farming.

BASF, Syngenta and Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. participated in talks, according to KIUC President and CEO Randy Hee. A meeting with Kekaha Agriculture Association is expected to be forthcoming.

“We’re looking for significant acreage to put together a utility-size solar farm,” Hee said.

The talks coincide with KIUC’s highest effective rates ever: a little over 49 cents per kilowatt hour for residential customers. Hee said a drop in fuel prices is expected to trickle down to the customer in September with slightly lower effective rates.

The sustainable energy farm is expected to help KIUC meet the goals of the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative, an agreement between the state and Department of Energy to use energy efficiency and renewable energy resources to meet 70 percent of Hawai‘i’s demand by 2030.

The state currently depends on imported fossil fuels for 90 percent of its energy needs.

“This is one way that we are able to move forward and look to other technologies to help defray the high fuel costs,” said chair Dennis Esaki.

Also this week, KIUC’s board of directors approved a power purchase agreement with Green Energy Hydro.

KIUC expects to buy about 130 kilowatts generated by the Koloa hydroelectric unit near Maluhia Road. The hydro shares the same property as Green Energy Hawaii’s biomass-to-energy plant, also under a power purchase agreement with KIUC.

The agreement will now go before the Public Utilities Commission for approval.

The PUC denied an earlier PPA with Green Hydro because the compensation for power purchased was based on an oil avoidance rate, or the amount the co-op saves in fuel costs from the agreement. The PUC is unable to approve contracts tied to oil prices.

August KIUC board actions

• $3.95M approved for engine repairs.

• Names considered by Nominating Committee to be made public.

• CEO authorized to make payments up to $4.5M, increased from $4M.

• Lydgate Substation demolished.

$3.95M OK’d for

engine repairs

The board approved up to $3.95 million in repairs to KIUC’s third-largest engine, the GT-1 at Port Allen power plant,

The amount includes $500,000 approved last year for a routine overhaul in 2010 of the unit, which is 28 years old. KIUC Production Manager Brad Rockwell said the engine’s maker has since recommended that the rotors be replaced after 5,000 starts; KIUC’s unit is approaching 6,000 starts.

A new rotor will cost $2.2 million and has a lead time of a year. Another $1.1 million will fund an advanced sealing package to improve the efficiency of the turbine components. And the originally budgeted half-million will be used on new compressor parts.

Rockwell said he’s considering options that would cost half the budgeted amount, along with others that would require the full $3.95 million.

“I’ll make a call on what funding is best for the co-op and its members,” he said.

The total amount, which exceeds the PUC-imposed spending threshold of $2.7 million, will have to go to the state commission for approval.

Nominating Committee

to name names

The board approved a policy to making public the names of those considered by the Nominating Committee to run for election. Traditionally, the committee — comprised of one director and four co-op members — selects as many candidates as there are open seats a few months before the annual election. Eligible applicants can offer their names for consideration, while others are asked for their participation.

KIUC did not have an official stance on identifying applicants, though the general practice was to name only the committee’s selections.

The board debated the pros and cons of naming names, and all but one director, Peter Yukimura, approved the change.

Yukimura expressed concern that individuals who are considered but not selected will be at a disadvantage if they decide to join the ballot via member petition, especially those who are obliging the committee’s request to throw their names in the hat.

“If they want to run (for election), there’s a black cloud over their head,” he said.

Board member Phil Tacbian said the committee members could themselves leak the names, and that a policy of transparency would diffuse any problems from the start.

Board Chair Dennis Esaki agreed, saying, “Everyone will know whose name is in there and there’s no shenanigans.”

CEO’s authority to make payments expanded

The board ratified a $4.1 million fuel payment to Chevron, and then expanded the CEO’s authority to make payments up to $4.5 million without board approval.

The previous limit was $4 million, but high oil prices have driven the monthly fuel expenses beyond that figure.

Substation demolished

Lydgate substation was demolished last week as planned. Kapa‘a and Kapaia stations have picked up the displaced loads.

The groundbreaking for the replacement station is set for Sept. 4, with the bulk of the civil work taking place over four months. Serious electrical work will follow, with an anticipated completion date by the first quarter of 2009.

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