Developer, KIUC announce plans for solar farm

LIHU‘E — Alexander & Baldwin and Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative on Monday jointly announced plans for a 6-megawatt utility-scale solar farm on the South Shore. 

A subsidiary of A&B will be the developer and operator of the photovoltaic facility and will sell the power to KIUC under a 20-year, fixed-rate power purchase agreement signed Monday by the parties, a news release states.

The proposed facility, development of which is contingent on various state and county approvals, would be built on a 20-acre, industrial-zoned parcel of land owned by A&B adjacent to KIUC’s Port Allen Station power plant. The site is located in one of the highest solar radiation regions on Kaua‘i, the release states.

Pending regulatory approvals, construction is expected to begin in late 2011 with completion before the end of 2012, the release states. 

“A&B is pleased to increase its production of clean energy on Kaua‘i through this investment, and to help achieve KIUC’s renewable energy goals,” said Christopher Benjamin, A&B’s chief financial officer, who also oversees A&B’s agribusiness unit and energy-related initiatives.

“Our company’s century-long commitment to generating renewable energy for Kaua‘i’s residents and businesses dates to the very origins of McBryde Sugar Company through the operation of our hydroelectric facilities at Kalaheo and Wainiha, which currently generate about 5 MW of electricity for KIUC.” he said. “We are excited to think that A&B will soon be capable of generating a total of 11 MW of clean, renewable energy on Kaua‘i, and we look forward to expanding our collaborative relationship with KIUC to explore additional renewable energy opportunities.” 

A&B is among the state’s largest providers of renewable energy, generated by hydroelectric facilities on Maui and Kaua‘i and biomass-fueled cogeneration on Maui, the release states.

“A&B’s facility, which would be the largest solar generation facility on Kaua‘i when completed, underscores KIUC’s progress in the solar arena,” KIUC President and Chief Executive Officer David Bissell said. “When coupled with an existing 1 MW facility at Kapa‘a and a planned 3 MW facility at Po‘ipu, KIUC will likely have the highest percentage of solar PV on its system anywhere in the country. 

“This project means KIUC members will benefit for the next two decades from clean, renewable solar energy at a fixed price below our current cost of generation and not tied to oil,” he said. “This is truly a win-win situation for the Kaua‘i community and underscores our ability to work with landowners to make these kinds of projects happen.”

As currently planned, the 6 MW polycrystalline panel solar facility will be integrated with a Battery Energy Storage System installed by KIUC at the point of interconnection to the grid, the release states. The BESS will facilitate greater stability on the KIUC system by maintaining a predictable flow of power from the Port Allen solar facility and other intermittent generation resources.

“With these solar projects placed in service, and with the completion of previously announced projects, we anticipate that KIUC’s renewable energy portfolio will meet more than 20 percent of Kaua‘i’s annual energy needs,” KIUC Board Chair Teofilo “Phil” Tacbian said. “We continue to believe that our portfolio approach emphasizing multiple technologies, including solar, hydropower, and biomass generation, is the best path to meeting our goal of becoming 50 percent renewable by 2023.”

Additional information about the proposed project will be provided to KIUC’s members at the co-op’s quarterly update meetings, while A&B will seek additional community feedback at an ‘Ele‘ele-Hanapepe-Port Allen meeting to be scheduled later this summer.

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