Solar farms large enough to power 32,000 homes coming to Oahu

Image: Hawaii News Now
Image: Hawaii News Now

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday officially kicked off construction of three grid-scale solar farms on Oahu.

The facilities, which will be operated by NRG Energy, Inc., are located near Waialua, Waiawa and Mililani.

The projects total nearly 110 megawatts, the equivalent to the energy used by 32,000 Oahu homes, according to Hawaiian Electric Company.

"They'll take about 90,000 metric tons of carbon out of the air every year, which is about the same as planting two million trees," explained Craig Cornelius, president of NRG Renewables.

NRG acquired the projects in 2016 during SunEdison's bankruptcy.

Hawaiian Electric received approval from the Public Utilities Commission to purchase the power.

Officials said the solar farms will increase the utility's renewable output on Oahu by 3 percentage points.

"We're so happy that NRG was able to get ahold of these projects out of bankruptcy. They actually improved it, lowered the price so that's all good for Hawaii, all good for our customers," said Alan Oshima, CEO of Hawaii Electric Company.

The ceremony took place two days after President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on imported solar panels, a move he said would protect American companies and workers.

The change won't affect the three Oahu projects, according to NRG officials.

"Two of the three projects make use of thin film panels that aren't subject to the tariff at all, and one of the three, we were able to bring all the equipment into the country within a time frame so that the tariff doesn't apply," said Cornelius.

Oshima said Hawaiian Electric's preliminary review indicated that the tariffs will have limited impacts on the costs of future projects.

"It will have an impact, but nowhere near where it should make a huge difference, because solar projects even rooftop is comprised of many things not just the panels. You have to look at the whole package, said Oshima.

NRG expects the three facilities to start commercial operations between March and June of 2019.

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