Utilities move ahead with Hawaii’s first two community solar and storage projects on Moloka’i


Hawaiian Electric Industries (HECO) and Ho‘āhu Energy Cooperative Molokai are moving ahead with construction of the state’s first two community solar-plus-storage projects. The Pālā‘au Solar and Kualapu‘u Solar projects will be the first on the Molokai island, a 260 square mile island east of the Hawaii island, to offer a community-based renewable energy or CBRE to help lower the electric bills of low-to-moderate income customers.

The distributed generation projects, once complete, can meet 20% of Molokai’s energy needs by providing clean power to 1,500 island households.

HECO, the largest investor-owned utility serving Hawaii’s electric market, in March 2022 sent out requests for proposals to developers, companies, organizations or groups to form a subscriber organization of shared solar projects for the utility’s low- to middle-income customers.

Once negotiations of the 20-year contracts for Pālā‘au Solar and Kualapu‘u are finalized, Hawaiian Electric and Ho‘āhu will submit the applications to the Public Utilities Commission for approval.

Pālā‘au Solar includes 2.2 MW of solar paired with 10.1 MWh of battery energy storage. The project will be sited on HECO property adjacent to the company’s Pālā‘au Baseyard.

Kualapu‘u Solar includes a 250 kW solar system paired with a 1 MWh battery located at the Kualapu‘u Park and Community Center. The project’s solar array will be mounted on carport structures over an existing parking lot.

Shake Energy Collaborative, a woman-owned public benefit corporation, and Mana Pacific, were selected as project developers for the two projects.

“When Act 100 was passed in 2015 the intent was to ensure that the benefits of renewable energy generation were made more accessible to a greater number of residents who would otherwise be unable to directly participate in renewable energy production,” said Senator Lynn DeCoite. “These projects are promising steps towards our renewable energy future on the friendly isle.”

For more information about the Molokai projects, visit Ho‘āhu Energy’s website.

Elsewhere in Hawaii, HECO in November 2022 selected seven distributed generation solar projects on the islands of Hawaii Island, Oahu and Maui that will offer clean energy procurement to LMI households.

Nexamp is developing the seven community solar-plus-storage projects on the Hawaii (12.8 MWdc / 41.1 MWh storage), Maui (11.2 MWdc / 35.5 MWh storage) and Oahu (7.8MWdc solar only) islands.  On Oahu, the developer is partnered with MeLink Solar.

According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Hawaii’s Community Power, which grades states based on community solar, net metering terms, PACE financing, community choice aggregation and various statewide tariffs and utility protocols, the state of Hawaii has a Grade C community power rating.

Hawaii scores in the middle because the state has some policies that continue to support local authority over consumer energy choice, according to the ILSR.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Hawaii rocketed to 17th place in the U.S. solar development market in 2021 from 32nd coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic with 1.55 GW of current PV installations as of mid-2022.

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