A&B, KIUC break ground on new solar farm

PORT ALLEN — Alexander & Baldwin Inc. and the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative on Thursday jointly broke ground on what will become the largest solar energy facility on Kaua‘i, a 6-megawatt utility-scale solar photovoltaic facility at Port Allen.

Pending county and state regulatory approval for the planned photovoltaic facility at Port Allen, construction is expected to start later this year with completion anticipated by the end of 2013, states an Alexander and Baldwin release.

“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 Co. through the operation of our hydroelectric facilities at Kalaheo and Wainiha which currently generate about 5 megawatts of electricity for KIUC.”

Benjamin praised the KIUC for its pursuit of renewable energy sources and the county for its support.

“This is a great thing for the island, A&B, KIUC and the people,” Benjamin said. “We used to make electricity when it rained. Now we can make electricity when the sun is shining.”

A subsidiary of A&B, McBryde Resources Inc., will be the developer and operator of the facility and will sell the power to KIUC under a 20-year, fixed-rate power purchase agreement.

The proposed facility, pending approval by various county and state agencies, 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, executives said.

“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 CEO David Bissell states in the news release.

“When coupled with an existing 1-megawatt facility at Kapa‘a and a planned 3-megawatt facility at Po‘ipu, KIUC will likely have the highest percentage of solar PV (photovoltaic) on its system anywhere in the country,” Bissell said.

 “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. 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.”

Brad Rockwell, KIUC power supply manager, said KIUC relies on oil for 89 percent of its energy, and that the solar agreement with A&B is a step toward more renewable energy.

“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 energy needs,” KIUC Board Chairman Teofilo “Phil” Tacbian states in the news release.

“We continue to believe 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,” Tacbian said.

The planned 6-megawatt polycrystalline panel solar facility would be integrated with a battery energy storage system installed by KIUC at the point of interconnection to the grid.

The system 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, executives said.

Hoku Solar Inc. reported the signing of an agreement with A&B to design and build the solar facility for A&B, partnering with Helix Electric, one of the larger electrical contractors in the U.S. to build the photovoltaic facility.

Hoku Solar delivered the Kapolei Sustainable Energy Park, a 1.18-megawatt solar facility developed by Forest City Sustainable Resources that is the largest utility-scale PV facility on O‘ahu.

Additional information about the proposed project will be provided to KIUC members at upcoming quarterly meetings, and A&B will seek additional community feedback during a meeting to be scheduled later this summer on Kaua‘i.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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