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World's Largest Solar + Battery Plant Unveiled in Hawaii

Lorraine Chow JAN 09, 2019

Hawaii has a new, game-changing tool in its renewable energy arsenal. Power producer AES Corporation and the not-for-profit Kaua'i island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) unveiled what's claimed to be the world's largest solar-plus-storage peaker on the island of Kauai on Tuesday, the Lāwa'i Solar and Energy Storage Project.


This is a significant step to help the Aloha State reach its 100 percent renewable energy goal by 2045, one of the most aggressive decarbonization targets in the nation.


So what exactly does this thing do? The battery-based energy storage system—consisting of a 28-megawatts of solar PV and 20-megawatt lithium-ion battery—is designed to supply the grid with peak power output for up to five hours while simultaneously charging the batteries, according to the member-owned energy cooperative.


Essentially, the new facility solves a big hiccup with standalone solar plants, which traditionally turn to peaker plants that run on fossil fuels to meet peak demand on the grid.


Once it's fully integrated, the Lāwa'i plant will offset the use of 3.7 million gallons of diesel each year, the developers touted in a press release.


"Now that the Lāwa'i project is on line, as much as 40 percent of our evening peak power will be supplied by stored solar energy," KIUC's president and CEO David Bissell said at the unveiling on Tuesday. "I think it's safe to say this is a unique achievement in the nation and possibly the world."


All told, the plant will be able to meet an estimated 11 percent of Kauai's energy needs, making the island more than 50 percent powered by renewable energy, the developers said.


Power from the facility will be purchased by KIUC at 11 cents per kilowatt hour via a 25-year power purchase agreement—that's "roughly 1/3 lower than the current cost of diesel," the cooperative commented Tuesday on Facebook. "So it will save our members money."


KIUC's Bissell added, "Replacing fossil fuels with stable, lower-priced renewables helps us keep rates as low as possible for our members."


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