LIHUE — Kauai Island Utility Cooperative is now powering Kauai more routinely off of 100% renewable energy, and though that goal isn’t reached on a daily basis, the co-op is getting close.
Between Nov. 22 and Dec. 10, KIUC had 11 days where all of the grid’s electric needs were successfully supplied by 100% renewables for extended periods of several hours.
“We didn’t use a drop of fossil fuel for a cumulative total of more than 32 hours during that time frame,” said KIUC’s President and Chief Executive Officer, David Bissell. “We believe this is a unique accomplishment for a stand-alone electrical grid relying on small-scale renewable generation.”
For the past two years, KIUC has routinely achieved 90% or more renewable generation during the mid-day on sunny days. Last month, KIUC took steps to fully deploy renewable capabilities.
The cooperative’s renewable portfolio is comprised of a combination of distributed and utility-scale solar, one biomass plant, and a number of relatively small hydro generation facilities. KIUC’s grid serves the entire island of Kauai; which has a population of about 100,000 including visitors, without any tie-in to other utilities.
In addition to solar and hydropower, KIUC’s steam-injected gas turbine generator at Kapaia Power Station is the first of its kind to be retrofitted to run in synchronous condenser mode. This allows the generator, manufactured by General Electric, to provide inertia, fault current, voltage support and frequency stabilization to the grid without burning fuel. When power is needed, the turbine can be restarted within five minutes.
“We want to provide the cleanest electricity possible, but we have to be mindful that our primary obligation is to provide safe, reliable power to our members at all times,” Bissell said. “Our operations personnel needed ample time to put all the necessary pieces into place before pushing the envelope to 100% renewable. Now we’re doing it routinely.”