State lawmakers tour Kauai

LIHUE — Hawaii representatives toured Kauai Tuesday and liked what they saw.

Members of the House Finance Committee, chaired by Rep. Sylvia Luke, visited sites to see projects and programs supported by the Legislature.

“A lot of time at Legislature, people don’t get to see and appreciate what’s going on in the community,” Luke said. “So it’s important for legislators, especially the ones who are not from Kauai, to come to Kauai and appreciate the community and find out the needs of the community.”

One crucial stop was Tesla’s Kapaia Power Station.

“I’m just really proud to be able to show off this facility to our fellow Finance Committee members from all over the state,” said Rep. Nadine Nakamura. “They’re seeing this in action and hearing and learning about how we can reduce our energy costs on Kauai and use a renewable source of energy to become less dependent on oil.”

Representatives heard how Kauai Island Utility Cooperative works with Tesla in providing the community with more affordable and greener renewable energy. It’s 55,000 solar panels and 282 Tesla PowerPack batteries store up to 13 megawatts of power each day, which is fed into the grid for four hours during evening peak, enough to power up to 4,500 homes.

“It’s good to have the legislative Finance Committee come to Kauai to see our projects, to see all the good work that’s being done here and hopefully keep appropriate tax credits and support for what we’re doing as an island and as a state flowing to the energy sector,” said David Bissell, KIUC president and CEO.

“As a cooperative, we’re doing a lot of innovative, really groundbreaking projects, such as the one out here with Tesla, the first big project with dispatchable solar in the world right here on Kauai,” Bissell added. “It’s providing 15 to 20 percent of our nighttime peak energy coming from the sun now.”

The cooperative was able to work through hurdles with Tesla to correct storage settings and provide renewable energy back to the grid during peak usage times.

“The message we received from KIUC and Solar City Tesla is that this would not be possible without the tax credits that they receive, especially solar tax credits and battery storage tax credits,” Nakamura said. “If as a policy we want to move in the direction of renewable energies, we should probably think about investing more in that area.”

Others issues — irrigation, water, agriculture and cultural preservation — were also brought to the committee’s attention.

“We were able to appropriate $5 million from the state to help these county projects,” Luke said. “A lot of times people really don’t know the difference between what’s federally funded, state funded and county funded, but for us it doesn’t matter. We want to make sure state monies and taxpayer monies are spent for the needs of the community.”

Today, the committee will visit Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital, Haena State Park, Waipa Foundation, Hanalei Watershed Hui and Kilauea Ag Park Complex.

“The Kauai representatives fight really hard for their Kauai communities,” Luke said.

“It’s a tight-knit community, so we get to appreciate how hospitable and friendly this isle is,” Luke added. “It makes us want to give back and make sure they have the needs and infrastructure they need.”

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