Maui College going 100% solar

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Hawaii is back at it again. In the state that has the country’s most aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), a plan to double renewable energy penetration by 2021 and multiple counties committed to a 100% renewable public transportation system, comes Maui College’s announcement that the school will become the first in the country to be powered by 100% solar energy.

The announcement is a part of the University of Hawaii System’s net-zero energy goal. The goal, established by Act 99, SLH 2015, has the objective “To become net-zero with respect to energy use, producing as much (renewable) energy as the system consumes across all campuses by January 1, 2035.”

As reported by Hawaii Public Radio (HPR), the project will cost $6.3 million, with the first shipments of solar panels set to arrive later in the summer.

In an interview for HPR, Tim Botkin, head of the college’s Sustainable Science Management Program outlined the need to go solar.

“Well yeah, it is a big deal. And we like to think we deserve it, because for one, we have the natural resources for it. For two, we have a need to be more sustainable here in Maui and in the islands, so doing that and showing that we’re willing to step out and take these sort of risks is appropriate I think.”

The project will feature both rooftop and ground installations. Notably, Botkin outlined that the ground installations will be portable, so that in the event that a building is constructed at their location, they can be placed on the building or moved to another location.

According to a press release, the project is the second phase of a larger plan between the UH System, Johnson Controls and Pacific Current. The plan will also include 2.8 MW / 13.2 MWh of battery storage systems on the Maui College campus. The solar panels and battery systems are being paid for as part of a power purchase agreement between Maui College and Pacific Current, outlined in the deal.

This and similar emissions-cutting projects at five other UH System campuses are expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2019.