With some of Maui’s largest fossil-fuel power producers retiring soon, and three proposed renewable energy projects no longer moving forward, Hawaii Electric officials said now is a critical time to ensure alternative resources are available. “Stand in line.”
“We want to make sure that we figure out ways to get some of the new resources available and get them rolling, bring them online so that when we get to (years) ’27 or ’28, we’re talking about closing Kahului (Power Plant) and shutting down machinery in Maalaea, Where we have alternative resources waiting.” HECO’s Jim Kelly said at a community meeting Thursday night at the company’s auditorium in Kahului.
“We can’t wait until 2025 or 2026 and say ‘boy, we’re screwing up, we better start building something’ because it just doesn’t happen that way,” added Kelly, HECO’s vice president of government, community and corporate communications.
Explain that “The easiest type of renewable project,” A utility-scale solar project with storage batteries could take five years “If all goes well,” This is why it is so important to start the discussion now.
HECO is pushing for more renewable energy projects to move forward as it moves toward the state’s goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
But on Maui, only three of the six renewable projects selected for 2019-2020 are still on the books.
The latest to drop out was Potentia Renewables’ Kamaole Solar in March. The project was a 40 MW solar PV project coupled with a 160 MWh battery energy storage system.
Another project that is no longer moving forward is Innergex’s Kahana Solar project, slated to be a 20MW single-axis tracking solar PV system with an 80MW battery energy storage system. Withdrew on December 30th.
Longroad Development Co’s Pulehu Mauka Solar project, which would have been a 40 MW system, with a 160 MWh battery energy storage system, was also abandoned.
Sheena Decker, a spokeswoman for Hawaii Electric, said Friday that the projects have pulled out ‘Because of supply chain and pricing issues.’
The only project currently in circulation is AES Kuihelani Solar, which is under construction. It is a 60 MW solar PV system, with a 240 MWh battery energy storage system, making it the largest solar project in Maui. Kelly said it is due to be completed by the end of the year.
HECO’s Waena Battery Energy Storage System is awaiting PUC approval. It will be a 40 MW system, with a 160 MWh battery energy storage system.
If approved this year, Kelly said, it could be in service by 2025.
He added that Paeahu Solar is on hold, as there have been some legal challenges and licensing issues. The project will be a 15 MW system and a 60 MWh storage battery.
Kelly said HECO is pursuing renewable projects such as solar, wind and batteries. It is also seeking 40 megawatts of fixed renewable energy that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The utilities are also looking to get 55 megawatts of rooftop solar power using batteries.
HECO wants “To get all of this online by 2027,” So they have things ready to go in case four generators at the Maalaea power plant need to be shut down, Kelly said.
Last year, Mitsubishi, which supplies parts for the four units in Maalaea, told HECO that it might not be able to supply them in the future. Kelly said the units are about 40 years old.
There are some parts on hand to do “reforms,” And maybe some extra parts HECO can get.
“But as we get to the end of the decade, it looks like we won’t be able to get parts to do repairs after that. So we kind of assume the worst,” he says. Kelly said.
He said they’re still looking around to see what can be done, but HECO needs to start planning assuming the units won’t be operational in 2030.
Then there is the fate of the Kahului Power Plant, which is scheduled to close by the end of 2027. There may be an extension of its opening beyond another year, Kelly added.
Hawaiian Electric has been planning for years to retire the fossil-fuel-dependent Kahului Power plant for good as the country moves toward its renewable energy goal.
Environmentalists also wanted to see the plant closed.
* Author Melissa Tangi can be reached at [email protected].