The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission has approved a large scale renewable power/ storage contract for Maui Electric Company, Inc. that will cover close to half of the utility’s demand on Molokai. The utility is contracting for the provision of renewable as-available energy and associated electric services with Molokai New Energy Partners. The 4.88-megawatt photovoltaic project, coupled with a 3 MW/15MW-hour battery energy storage system with a maximum allowed export of 2.64 MW, is proposed to be located in Kaunakakai on the island of Molokai. The project will meet about 40% of the demand on the island and is expected to be in-service by the second quarter of 2019. The utility said that since the contract terms were negotiated, batteries have increased in price and solar panels have become subject to a 30% import duty, but under the contract, the developer bears the risk for cost increases. The energy produced will be provided on an as-available basis, providing both real-time PV energy and time-shifted PV energy from the battery storage system. According to the utility, the time-shifted energy will offset evening peak and overnight customer loads, which are currently served by the diesel generators.
In approving the contract, the commission pointed out that aside from power generated from rooftop solar/distributed generation, the vast majority of Molokai’s power is generated from the utility’s diesel engine generators, and therefore the purchase agreement will provide environmental benefits by reducing the amount of fossil fuel, diversifying the current supply of Molokai’s power, and contributing towards utility’s renewable power portfolio goals. At the same time, the commission found that the agreement will not impact the growth of distributed energy resources such as rooftop solar. Re Maui Electric Co., Limited, Docket No. 2018-0053, Decision & Order No. 35609, Jul. 30, 2018 (Hawaii P.U.C.).