Two large solar projects eyed for Big Island

Utility-scale solar farms could be coming to Hawaii Island.

Hawaiian Electric announced Tuesday that it selected companies to build two solar projects on the island that would have a combined capacity of 60 megawatts. As for who they are and where the projects would be located, residents will have to wait and see.

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“Until we send the contracts to the Public Utilities Commission, we can’t say,” said HECO spokesman Peter Rosegg, citing a nondisclosure agreement.

“It will take fairly large land,” he added. “It would have to be flat, not up the side of the mountain. If you look around, you can probably say these are the best bets.”

Rosegg said the utility is requiring the companies to make their pitch to the public, which he anticipated to happen within the next few weeks.

Statewide, there are seven solar projects being proposed, all made possible with the help of battery storage.

Rosegg said the Hawaii Island projects would be able to store 240 megawatts together. That’s not enough to keep them supplying energy 24 hours a day, though it would help during evening peak hours, he said.

“It will make a substantial difference,” Rosegg said.

He said the projects, which require PUC approval, would deliver power at lower costs than other renewables because they won’t be tied to the price of oil.

The procurement scope for the island initially was limited to 20 megawatts, but the utility got PUC approval to seek more since Puna Geothermal Venture remains offline.

While the projects would have a combined capacity of 60 megawatts, how much they produce depends largely on how much the sun shines.

Rosegg said he didn’t know what the average production rate would be. But he said it would be the “largest infusion of renewable energy” seen on the island.

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Construction could take up to a year and a half after PUC approval, which could happen in mid-2019, Rosegg said.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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