Kumu Sabra Kauka conducts the blessing with (L-R): Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro; Kauai Liaison for Governor David Ige, Carrice Caspillo Gardner, AES DE President Woody Rubin, Councilmember Felicia Cowden, KIUC President and CEO David Bissell, Mayor Derek Kawakami, KIUC Board Vice Chair Jan TenBruggencate, Kauai Field Representative for Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Kaulana Finn. Photo courtesy of KIUC

The Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative reached a milestone. The co-op just announced it reached its renewable energy generation goal of 50 percent, during the inauguration of a new, massive storage facility.

“We’ve passed the 50 yard line and the end zone is in sight,” said David Bissell, KIUC’s President and CEO, as the co-op and its renewable energy partner AES Distributed Energy unveiled the state’s largest solar-plus-utility-scale-storage power facility Tuesday in Lāwa’i.

More than 100 people attended the blessing and had a close up look at the solar panels and batteries that are now operational and can meet up to 11 percent of Kauaʿi’s energy needs, according to KIUC news release.

“Now that the Lāwa’i project is on line, as much as 40 percent of our evening peak power will be supplied by stored solar energy,” Bissell said. “I think it’s safe to say this is a unique achievement in the nation and possibly the world.”

Owned and operated by AES DE, the Lāwaʻi Solar and Energy Storage Project is located on former sugar land owned by Alexander and Baldwin on Kauaʻi’s South Shore. The facility consists of 28-megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic and a 100-megawatt hour (MWh) five-hour duration energy storage system.

AES will utilize sheep to control vegetation in an environmentally friendly way, avoiding fossil fuels and herbicides used in traditional landscape maintenance. Photo courtesy of KIUC

Designed to offer dispatchable renewable solar power, the battery-based energy storage system can also supply the grid with peak power output for up to five-hours duration while simultaneously charging the batteries.

Power from the facility will be purchased by KIUC at 11 cents per kilowatt-hour via a 25-year power purchase agreement.

“Replacing fossil fuels with stable, lower-priced renewables helps us keep rates as low as possible for our members,” Bissell said. He added the facility will also avoid the use of 3.7 million gallons of diesel each year. Overall, KIUC’s renewable portfolio has expanded from 8 percent in 2010 to more than 50 percent at the end of 2018, with a corresponding reduction of 15 million gallons of fossil fuel usage per year.

“Projects like this are possible because we’ve forged partnerships with landowners like A&B and proven industry leaders such as AES DE. Credit is also due to the strategic leadership of our board of directors, support from our elected officials and of course the participation of our member-owners,” Bissell said.

Mayor Derek Kawakami with KIUC personnel (L-R): Board member David Iha, President & CEO David Bissell, Board Member Calvin Murashige, Board Vice Chair Jan TenBruggencate, Board members Dee Crowell, Peter Yukimura, Janet Kass and Teofilo “Phil” Tacbian. Photo courtesy of KIUC

Woody Rubin, President of AES DE said the “innovative project will be a reliable source of firm renewable energy for decades to come and serve as an example for markets across the globe.

“We thank KIUC for their leadership in driving towards a cleaner energy future as well as the broader community for their support during the development of the project,” Rubin said.

KIUC, AES DE and the Department of Defense are also partnering on a solar-plus-storage project soon to break ground on land occupied by the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kekaha. The PMRF facility will couple a 19.3-megawatt solar array in conjunction with a 70-megawatt-hour battery energy-storage system.

“We expect the PMRF project to be on line by the end of this year, and that will bring us well over 60 percent renewable. Our strategic goal is 70 percent renewable by 2030: We’ll be substantially there a full ten years early,” Bissell said.