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Residents invited to get to know Innergex

A Canadian-based renewable energy company will host a community meeting next week in Waimea about its proposed solar project on Parker Ranch land.

Innergex Renewable Energy is one of two companies selected by Hawaiian Electric to build utility-scale solar farms on Hawaii Island. Contract negotiations are underway with the utility, along with five other solar projects statewide, which all require approval of the Public Utilities Commission.

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Hawaiian Electric and its Hawaii Island subsidiary, Hawaii Electric Light Co., are not announcing the names of the companies. Instead, they are requiring those selected to host community meetings and make themselves known to their potential neighbors while negotiations are underway.

So far, only Innergex has made itself public on the island.

Eddie Park, Innergex project manager, said the company is looking for a 25-year power purchase agreement for a 30-megawatt solar project, called Hale Kuawehi, with operations beginning in 2022.

The company will host a community meeting from 5:30-9 p.m. Monday in the cafeteria at Waimea Middle School.

The project site is mauka of Highway 190 shortly before the junction with Old Saddle Road, if driving from Waimea.

Park said it might be visible from the Old Saddle Road when driving down from Waikii.

“Folks from Waimea won’t really see it,” he said.

Innergex also was selected to build a 15-megawatt solar project on Maui.

Hawaii County Council member Tim Richards, who represents Kohala, said he has scheduled meetings with Innergex but hasn’t been briefed on the project yet.

He said he is interested in finding out what the cost of the power could be and how committed the company is to the island.

“What I’m interested in is the long-term plan,” Richards said.

He declined to say whether he knows the identity of the other company selected by the utility.

“I’m just not going to answer that at this point,” Richards said. He added he would in “good time.”

Together, the projects would produce 60 megawatts.

Park said the company plans to be around for the long term.

“We definitely don’t want to build a bad relationship with the community,” he said.

As for cost, Park said he can’t release specifics but noted a price target of 11.2 cents per kilowatt hour was set.

The island’s average residential rate in 2017 was 34.2 cents per kilowatt hour, according to HELCO.

He said the site would occupy 250 to 300 acres and use panels that track the sun, which provide 10 to 20 percent more energy. The panels might be high enough off the ground to allow for some agricultural use of the site, he said.

The project would use a 120-megawatt battery, which would allow the power generated during the day to be used in the evening.

Park said there’s an existing solar plant used by Parker to power a pump at the site.

“We know that the resource is proven,” he said.

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Parker Ranch didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.

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