WAIMEA — Innergex Renewable Energy Inc., an independent public power company based in Quebec, Canada, was selected by Hawaiian Electric Companies earlier this month to develop and operate two new utility-scale solar farms in Hawaii.
The first, Hale Kuawehi Solar project, would be built on Parker Ranch land near Waimea, and the second on Ulupalakua Ranch on Maui. The two projects are among seven selected by Hawaiian Electric in the state.
A second solar farm on the Big Island would be built at a site yet-to-be-announced, in addition to a second farm on Maui and three on Oahu. The seven major solar-plus-storage projects on the three islands represent the largest infusion of renewable energy in state history.
Innergex would lease approximately 300 acres from Parker Ranch mauka of Mamalahoa Highway between Saddle Road and the existing West Hawaii Concrete plant, approximately five miles south of Waimea. Hale Kuawehi Solar would provide enough power for approximately 16,750 homes, not necessarily just in Waimea, but wherever needed.
The selected developers are currently in contract negotiations with Hawaiian Electric, and agreements are expected to be reached later this year. At that time, Hawaiian Electric would disclose the names of all developers and locations.
The contracts would then be submitted to The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) by the end of the year for review. Decisions on each contract would be expected in the first half of 2019.
Next, the companies would start construction, with a goal of completion in 2022.
In the meantime, the developers are required to schedule public meetings in the next few weeks to share information and obtain input from residents. Innergex has two public meetings confirmed in Waimea, the first from 5:30-9 p.m. Oct. 29 at Waimea School Cafeteria, and a second, shorter presentation at Waimea Community Association town meeting beginning at 5:15 p.m. Nov. 1 at the same location.
“We are proud to have been selected to the Final Award Group in this competitive bidding process and are extremely excited to propose a project that includes battery storage, as we think storage will play an important role in the future of renewable energy generation,” Michel Letellier said, president and CEO of Innergex, in a release. “We look forward to engaging with the local communities where these future sites are proposed, introduce our team, provide information and address any concerns. It is important for Innergex to develop projects that are harmoniously integrated in the communities where they are located.”
“Community input is very important and will be considered as part of the development process,” Jose Dizon added, a Waimea-based Innergex consultant from Pono Clean Power, LLC, who formerly oversaw Parker Ranch’s Paniolo Power Co. “Innergex will continue to meet with the community throughout the development and construction process.”
The two Hawaii Island solar projects would have a combined solar capacity of 60 megawatts and 240 megawatt-hours of combined battery storage capacity. On Maui, the two projects would total approximately 75 megawatts and 300 megawatt-hours of storage, while the three Oahu projects would yield approximately 120 megawatts and 515 megawatt-hours of storage.
Although solar energy is plentiful on the Big Island, during the evening hours solar generation often lacks. Adding a battery onto the solar project would allow Innergex to shift power when needed.
Another goal is to help lower electric rates when possible for customers, since costs wouldn’t be tied to the price of oil.
“Hawaii Electric Light Co. (HELCO), Hawaiian Electric Companies’ entity that services the Big Island, does not make a profit on third-party power purchases approved by the Public Utilities Commission. Costs are passed on directly to HELCO customers,” Dizon said.
The seven solar-plus-storage projects would help displace 1.2 million barrels of fossil fuel each year.
“These large-scale solar and battery projects will accelerate our renewable energy drive at some of the lowest prices we’ve seen to date,”said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president of business development and strategic planning in a statement. “With support from our communities, these projects will reduce our reliance on fossil fuel and cut greenhouse gas emissions while benefiting all with low-cost renewable energy.”
Hawaii Electric originally issued a request for proposals (RFP) Feb. 27 for the supply of qualified variable renewable dispatchable generation for Hawaii Island with an April 30 deadline.
Innergex has more than 65 projects in Canada, France, Iceland and the U.S. in Texas, Michigan and Hawaii. The company develops, owns and operates run-of-river hydroelectric facilities, wind farms, solar photo-voltaic farms and geothermal power generation plants.