Hawaii has the nation's highest electricity prices. (The statewide average is in the $0.36 per kilowatt-hour range according to Ted Peck, Hawaii's former State Energy Administrator.)
Worse yet, realize that 75 percent of the island's electrical power comes from oil that's imported from non-U.S. sources and poses a oil spill risk that would destroy the island's ecosystem and economy in one not-so-unimaginable disaster. The island is 90 percent dependent on fossil fuels and 7.5 percent of the islands' $63 billion GDP is spent on fuel and 10 percent is spent on food. The entire island chain of Hawaii has just 2,400 megawatts of generating capacity.
It would seem that the island chain is the perfect place for solar and renewables.
Hickam Communities and SolarCity just announced that construction is underway on what is expected to be one of the largest solar installations in Hawaii and one of the largest solar powered communities in the U.S., at Hickam Communities at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The installations are expected to create more than 55 green jobs in Hawaii during the installation period. Currently, the largest solar farm in Hawaii is in Kapahi and produces 1.2 megawatts.
Hickam Communities, owned by Lend Lease, is the preferred developer for the Air Force to develop, design, construct, renovate and provide asset and property management for homes at Hickam Air Force Base through 2057. SolarCity will initially install solar on approximately 600 rooftops at Hickam Communities.
The project helps the Air Force meet Department of Defense goals of having 25 percent of its energy requirements met by renewable energy by 2025. Through a 20-year PPA, SolarCity will engineer, install and maintain the solar systems, which will be interconnected by Hawaiian Electric Company.
In other related news, SET-Solar, a U.S. provider of photovoltaic modules, announced a collaboration with Greenpower Solutions of Hawaii. Greenpower will procure two megawatts of PV for its project in Hilo, Hawaii. This project is developed by MayDow Electric Company, and will be owned by QingDao ShuangXi USA, both of Hawaii.
And the 3.5-megawatt Kikiaola Solar in Kekaha on Kauai was approved by the county Planning Commission this week, according to The Garden Island. The owner/developer is Pacific Energy Partners.
A potential monkey wrench in these projects is Hawaiian Electric Company's reputation for slow response on interconnection. HECO has been known to limit the amount of solar generation in any given service area to a percentage of the homes/demand within that area. Other steps in the island's permitting process are also known to move at a glacial pace.