AES breaks ground on massive Kaua’i solar plus storage project

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The island of Kaua’i at the end of the Hawaiian chain continues to push the boundaries of what can be done with solar and other forms of renewable energy. As the latest, AES and the island’s utility cooperative have broken ground on the largest solar and storage project on Kaua’i to date, which once online will allow the island to incorporate a record level of solar.

The Lāwa’i Solar and Energy Storage Project on Kauaʻi’s south shore features a 28 MW of SunPower E-Series PV modules mounted on a single-axis trackers. This will be paired with a 20 MW/100 megawatt-hour (MWh) lithium-ion battery system based on 13,000 Samsung SDI battery modules.

AES Distributed Energy will be the long-term owner of the project, which alone will meet an estimated 11% of the island’s electricity demand. Combined with the other solar and solar plus storage projects put online to date this will allow Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) to meet 34% of the island’s electricity demand with solar.

This is more than three times the portion of any nation known to pv magazine to date.

When Kaua’i’s biomass and hydroelectric plants are included, this will allow renewables to meet 54% of the island’s electric demand. And when customer-sited solar and a hydro project are finished, Kaua’i will be at 59% renewables as a portion of annual demand.

These high levels of renewable energy are being incorporated despite less-than-ideal conditions. Kaua’i has no electrical interconnection to other islands, and as such must balance supply and demand on its own grid. Furthermore due to the presence of endangered birds no wind turbines have been built, which means that KIUC cannot take advantage of the natural synergy between daytime solar and overnight wind.