County and state officials joined Hawai‘i’s only electric cooperative on Thursday during a blessing and groundbreaking ceremony for a $54 million solar facility owned by Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative on land leased from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
KIUC officials expect the 12-megawatt array to be completed within next year. It will generate approximately 5 percent of the island’s annual energy needs and will be the second largest solar facility in the state, according to KIUC officials.
It will also eliminate 1.7 million gallons of oil imported each year to generate electricity.
Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, Kaua‘i Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and other local officials joined members of the KIUC board of directors and staff as well as members of the Anahola community in the groundbreaking ceremony.
The solar photovoltaic project will consist of 57,624 panels. It is being built by REC Solar on 60 acres adjacent to the Anahola Marketplace.
The project will be the second utility-scale solar facility to be built by KIUC for the benefit of its 30,000 members. Construction will soon be completed on another 12-megawatt array in Koloa that will come online later this summer.
When the Anahola project is completed, these solar arrays and other smaller systems will generate 30 megawatts during the day — enough power to meet 50 percent of Kaua‘i’s daytime electrical demand. The Anahola array alone will generate enough electricity to power 4,000 homes.
The project is being developed by a subsidiary of KIUC that will enable it to qualify for tax credits that were part of the 2009 federal stimulus package. Because it is a member-owned cooperative, not an investor-owned utility, KIUC can finance the project through the Rural Utilities Service.
The net cost of electricity generated by the array will be about 12.5 cents per kilowatt hour, nearly half of the current cost of oil, which is about 24 cents per kilowatt hour.
The project is expected to create about 125 construction jobs.
A 6-megawatt lithium-ion battery storage system is also planned for the project. KIUC also has the option of building a utility service center at the Anahola site once the solar array is completed.