Koloa solar site to break ground

LIHUE — Kauai Island Utility Cooperative officials say they will break ground next month on the state’s largest photovoltaic facility aimed at curbing the island’s dependence on imported fossil fuels.

The 12-megawatt array, which will be built on 67 acres of leased land owned by Grove Farm Company affiliate Haupu Land Company LLC, is scheduled Nov. 6 following nearly a year of work.  

“As far as projects go, this one came together very quickly,” KIUC spokesman Jim Kelly said on Tuesday. “We’re really excited to be breaking ground on it. It will be an important step for utility-owned solar … because we’ll be able to produce our own energy and use it.”

In late June, the state Public Utilities Commission gave its stamp of approval to proceed with the $41.2 million project near the old Koloa Mill.  

Officials selected the Grove Farm property and Mililani-based developer SolarCity to spearhead the project because of the site’s close proximity to KIUC’s Koloa substation.

“We’ve been talking about this for quite a while and we know it seems like it takes forever to get to the planning, design and permitting stage to finally breaking ground, but it’s going to be really exciting for everyone, especially ratepayers, to see this move forward,” Kelly said.

The facility project is expected to displace 1.7 million gallons of oil and 35,000 tons of carbon emissions annually, when it is completed in the second half of next year.

The new plant is also expected to meet about 5 percent of the island’s total energy consumption needs annually and achieve about $275,000 per month in energy cost savings for cooperative members and customers, according to current KIUC projections.

Significant cost savings, Kelly said, are expected to take place within the next eight to 10 years as the cooperative moves forward with other solar, hydroelectric and biomass projects.

Among those projects is the construction of another 12-megawatt solar project on about 55 acres of land in Anahola.

That $50 million project, which could break ground in the first half of 2014 if the lease is approved by the Hawaiian Homes Commission, is expected to displace 1.7 million gallons of oil annually.

• Darin Moriki, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0428 or dmoriki@thegardenisland.com.

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