PMRF solar project could make island self-sufficient

BARKING SANDS — The United States Navy wants to take advantage of the sun on Kauai’s Westside by installing a 44-megawatt solar array and a battery storage facility on 180 acres at the Pacific Missile Range Facility.

The project could supply enough energy to make PMRF a net-zero installation, meaning the facility’s energy production would equal its demand.

“The PV (photovoltaic) and battery systems are being evaluated to increase the use of renewable energy, which will provide better energy security by reducing PMRF’s dependency on programs that use conventional means of energy sources,” said Robert Purdy, spokesman for PMRF.

But it could also power thousands of homes on Kauai, since the energy generated will go into Kauai Island Utility Cooperative’s energy grid.

The project would contribute to price stability “at very favorable rates” for KIUC customers, if the entities can reach a favorable long-term purchase power agreement, according to Beth Tokioka, spokeswoman for KIUC.

“A project this size would help us get very close to our goal of reaching 100 percent renewable generation,” Tokioka said.

“Any additional solar with storage systems will assist us in displacing millions of gallons of oil that we currently must use in our evening and early morning peak hours, when the sun isn’t shining.”

The goal is to start construction on the 44-megawatt photovoltaic and battery energy storage systems at PMRF in December, and construction is expected to take three years, according to the project’s draft environmental assessment released in January.

The entities are negotiating a 40-year land lease with the U.S. Department of Defense and after that time period the lease could be renewed or terminated and the facilities decommissioned.

There are two options for construction: Building it all in one chunk, or separating it into phases. If the project is separated into phases, phase one would be on 87 acres and generate up to 21 megawatts, and phase two would be on 94 acres generating up to 23 megawatts.

The project supports several of the Navy’s energy goals, including the NetZero project, which aims to achieve net-zero energy use in half of Navy installations by 2020.

“It also promotes environmental sustainability by reducing the carbon footprint from conventional energy sources,” Purdy said.

The DEIS addresses 13 different resource areas the project could affect, and declares the project would have less than no impact, or no impact at all except on air quality.

Air quality should be improved because the project will reduce fossil fuel emissions, which would have a long-term beneficial impact, according to the DEA.

New electrical transmission lines would be installed to connect the projects to the existing KIUC transmission line along Kaumualii Highway, and the proposed connection routes include Tartar Drive and Lighthouse Road.

The final engineering design would determine if underground or overhead lines would be installed.

Though the specifics of the project are still being discussed, economically, construction could provide a bit of a boost to the surrounding areas, Purdy said.


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