KIUC moves ahead with hydro project

LIHUE — A Westside project incorporating photovoltaic and pumped storage hydro technology that could provide 15 percent of the island’s energy needs has moved closer to fruition following recent actions taken by the KIUC board of directors.

At its August meeting, the board approved land lease and associated agreements with two state agencies: the Department of Hawaiian Homelands and the Agribusiness Development Corporation.

Tuesday, the board approved expenditures of up to $350,000 for preliminary surveying, engineering and permitting work. KIUC has already commenced work on required diversion modifications and installation of gauging equipment.

A framework for the project was facilitated via a landmark settlement agreement, approved by the Commission on Water Resources Management in April, which sought to restore appropriate stream flow in the Waimea River, while providing water for other needs such as renewable energy and agriculture.

Parties to the agreement included KIUC, DHHL, ADC, the community-based group Po‘ai Wai Ola and the Kekaha Agriculture Association.

Kawai Warren, Pu‘u Opae director for Kekaha Hawaiian Homestead Association, said the organization is pleased with the process.

“After many years of working with DHHL and KIUC on the farm plan and water mediation to bring life back to the Pu‘u Opae home lands, a conscientious energy project that respects native Hawaiian rights is moving forward,” Warren said.

If the project is constructed, KIUC will invest millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements and ongoing maintenance on lands owned by state agencies.

Improvements include the rehabilitation of the Pu‘u ‘Opae, Mana and Pu‘u Lua reservoirs, the repair and maintenance of the Koke‘e Ditch system, the installation of a pressurized pipeline delivering Koke‘e water to DHHL mauka lands and the Mana plains, and improved roads.

“This partnership enables the state to provide proper stewardship for the river, while expanding agriculture, energy production and residential development on the west side,” said KIUC Board Chair Allan Smith.

Once completed, the pumped storage hydro project will generate up to 25 megawatts of electricity, and will substantially reduce the utility’s carbon footprint by displacing 5 million gallons of diesel annually.

Pu‘u ‘Opae will be a legacy generation facility, expected to serve Kauai’s energy needs for 100 years or more at a cost per kilowatt hour that is comparable to KIUC’s other renewable projects and lower than the current cost of diesel.

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