Hawaii pushes on with 3GWh storage drive

BY RICHARD HEAP:

Hawaiian Electric has thrown its support behind a solar and storage revolution.

On Monday, the US utility confirmed it has awarded support for 16 projects – a mix of standalone storage and solar-and-storage – on the islands of Oahu, Maui and Hawaii. The solar totals 460MW and the storage is almost 3GWh. This represents a 50% rise in the amount of solar on the company’s system.

Hawaiian Electric will now kick off contract negotiations with the developers, who will start consultation with local communities. All of the projects will be publicly revealed in the next 30 days, but some firms are jumping the gun.

On Tuesday, Innergex revealed it had won support for two schemes: a 20MW solar with 80MWh battery on Maui, and 15MW solar with 60MWh on Oahu. Both are due to be complete by 2023.

Michel Letellier, president and CEO of Innergex, said adding these two projects to two others it is building on Hawaii would support its growth in storage. He said this would “enable Innergex to achieve its strategic priority of developing its experience in battery storage and increasing its presence in the US”.

He added that both of the new projects was subject to reaching an acceptable 25-year power purchase agreement with Hawaiian Electric. This shows that the support announced by Hawaiian Electric is just one step in the regulatory and permitting process needed to support its renewables-and-storage revolution.

But the utility looks serious about supporting the delivery of these projects. That should make it a good case study about the role of storage on the grid.

Hawaii’s storage plan

In 2015, Hawaii became the first US state to commit to generating all of its electricity from renewables, by 2045.

And Hawaiian Electric is key to delivering this goal, as it provides electricity for 95% of residents in Hawaii’s islands of Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Hawaii.

The state’s move towards green energy has been driven as much by necessity as ideology. Hawaii is 2,000 miles from the US mainland, which means it has historically been reliant on fossil fuels for its electricity system. Around 80% of all energy used in Hawaii for electricity and transport comes from imported fossil fuels, mostly oil and some coal.

This drive to cut its dependence on costly fossil fuel imports has led Hawaiian Electric to grow the proportion of solar and wind in its electricity mix. These sources accounted for 26.8% of its electricity mix in 2018.

And that’s why storage is now coming to the fore. By growing the amount of energy storage, the company can help to smooth out the fluctuations on its network from the renewables it has – and also enable it to add more.

Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric’s SVP for business development and strategic planning said the utility had picked the storage projects with the “best opportunity for customer savings and realistic timelines for completion”.

In this round, the company has backed the following:

  • On Oahu, it gave support to eight solar-and-storage and one standalone storage project, totalling 287MW of generation and 1.8GWh of storage.
  • On Maui, it gave support to three solar-and-storage and one standalone storage project, totalling 100MW of solar and 560MWh of storage.
  • On Hawaii, it gave support to two solar-and-storage projects and one standalone storage project, totalling 72MW and 492MWh.

The utility said these were essential to replace firm fossil-fuel generation, and its criteria for the developments had included price, location, technology and a ‘meaningful community engagement by the developer’. The latter is important as Haiwaiian Electric said it was seeing “increasing concern about the location of renewable energy projects”, according to Alberts.

This round of awards represents around half of the capacity in the 900MW solar and storage procurement that Hawaiian Electric launched last August.

The company plans to release its winning bidders for the islands of Molokai and Lanai islands this summer. This revolution is gaining momentum.

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