Hawaiian Electric this week selected 16 winning solar-storage and standalone battery projects totaling 460 megawatts of solar capacity and nearly 3 gigawatt-hours of storage as the utility moves to close fossil fuel plants in the state.

Among the chosen developers are Canada's Innergex Renewable Energy and Hawaiian Electric itself. It's the largest renewables procurement in Hawaii's aggressive clean-energy development history as the state moves toward a 100 percent clean energy by 2045 goal. HECO is now in contract negotiations with the winning third-party developers.

HECO is the second utility to announce a multi-gigawatt-hour battery procurement this month alone, noted Daniel Finn-Foley, head of energy storage for Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. Earlier this month Southern California Edison selected seven projects adding up to 770 megawatts of 4-hour-duration battery systems slated to be completed by August 2021. 

“The utility energy storage market is blowing through milestones faster than we can report them,” Finn-Foley said. “In 2016 or 2017, a 30-megawatt system made news. In 2018 and 2019, procurements of hundreds of megawatts made way for gigawatt-hour-scale plans.” 

This week's announcement from HECO is the latest step in a request for proposals issued in August aimed at securing a mix of generation and grid services for the islands of Oahu, Maui and Hawaii.

The RFP comes with a far more complex set of requirements than the big renewable and storage procurements announced elsewhere in the U.S. in recent months, as well as the requirements of HECO's own previous procurement of 262 megawatts of solar and 1,048 megawatt-hours of storage in early 2019

That’s because this RFP is meant to help HECO replace two central power plants: the 203-megawatt AES Hawaii coal-fired power plant on Oahu, set to close by 2022, and the 212-megawatt Kahului oil-fired power plant on Maui, set to close by 2024. To replace those plants’ roles in providing energy, capacity and grid stability, HECO sought a mix of standalone energy storage available for round-the-clock grid capacity, and "dispatchable" renewable energy power-purchase agreements.

The list of winners includes:

  • On Oahu, eight solar-plus-storage projects and a single standalone storage system, totaling about 287 megawatts of generation and 1.8 gigawatt-hours of storage. 
  • On Maui, three solar-plus-storage projects and one standalone storage system, for a combined 100 megawatts of generation and 560 megawatt-hours of storage.
  • On Hawaii Island, two solar-plus-storage projects and one standalone storage system, adding up to about 72 megawatts of generation and 492 megawatt-hours of storage. 

Two of the winning projects will be standalone battery systems built by HECO itself — a 40-megawatt/160-megawatt-hour system on Maui and a 12-megawatt/12-megawatt-hour system on Hawaii. They were selected from five utility “self-build” projects that competed against third-party proposals, aimed at assuring that its need for load-shifting and contingency services would be in service earlier than the remaining combined solar-storage portions of its RFP. 

The 14 remaining projects will be built by third-party developers. HECO plans to announce the winning developers within 30 days after giving them time to engage with local communities regarding their construction plans. Renewable energy projects have faced protests and legal challenges in recent years, based on public opposition to their cost or their use of agricultural land. 

Canada's Innergex announced this week that two of its projects — a 15-megawatt solar and 60-megawatt-hour battery system on Oahu, and a 20-megawatt solar and 80-megawatt-hour battery system on Maui — are among the finalists. 

HECO has not yet revealed the pricing for the winning projects, which still need approval from the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.  

HECO has also not yet announced the results of another portion of its RFP seeking customer-based grid services, such as fast frequency response and capacity, utility spokesperson Peter Rosegg said in an email. The utility is looking for such services on all three islands in amounts ranging from 4 megawatts on Hawaii to nearly 120 megawatts on Oahu, Rosegg said.

Those procurements are being guided by HECO’s Integrated Demand Response Portfolio plan, a long-running proceeding that seeks to create markets for demand-side resources to serve grid needs. 

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