The island of Kauai’s journey to 100% renewable power reached an important milestone in 2019, with the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) reporting that for the year, the island achieved 56% renewable energy generation.
This benchmark, impressive in its own right, puts the island considerably ahead of Hawaii’s state mandates of 30% renewable by 2020 and 40% renewable by 2030, as well as ahead of the island’s independent and already aggressive goal of 50% renewable by 2023, set in 2008.
KIUCs president and CEO, David Bissell, attributes this massive step in renewable generation in large part to the completion of the AES Lawaʻi facility. The project, which accounts for roughly 11% of Kauai’s generation is comprised of a 28 MW solar installation and a 100 MWh, five-hour duration energy storage system.
The island’s generation mix for 2019 included 35% solar, 11% hydro and 10% biomass, with more than one-third of that solar figure coming from residential and commercial cooperative members.
To put this feat into perspective, the Kauai grid supports an estimated 100,000 people, including visitors, at any given time, which is roughly the same size as a large college football stadium.
Building on the past to look forward
Since the turn of the new year, Kauai is continuing to take home some of the nation’s most impressive renewable achievements. In 2020, the cooperative has logged 441 hours at 100% renewable energy, which works out to an average of five hours per day for a total of roughly 90 days.
For a period of 32 cumulative hours over 11 days in November and December of 2019, the island ran on 100% clean energy, for an average of nearly three hours a day, becoming the second American region to achieve such a feat, beaten only by California in April 2019, though Kauai has achieved the feat for much longer stretches. Since the new year, the average hours per day of 100% renewable generation on the island has gone up 66%.
While the island easily reached Hawaii’s goal of 30% renewable generation by 2020, the island will likely have that mark doubled before year’s end, with the completion of the AES PMRF solar-plus-storage project.
Located on 140 acres of land leased from the US Navy in wonderfully-named Barking Sands, the AES PMRF solar-plus-storage project is a 14 MW solar installation, coupled with a 70 MWh, five-hour duration storage system. The installation is expected to increase the island cooperative’s renewable portfolio standard by 7%.
Edit 4/27/20: This article was edited to reflect that the AES PMRF solar-plus-storage project is located on land leased from the U.S. Navy, adjacent to, but not on a landfill. We apologize for the error.