Kauai hits renewable energy milestone

Published: Feb. 2, 2016 at 8:31 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 2, 2016 at 11:47 PM HST
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ANAHOLA, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - While Hawaiian Electric Co. customers on Oahu are battling just to get their rooftop photovoltaic systems online, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative members are hitting an impressive renewable energy milestone.

Four times in January, KIUC generated 90 percent of the island's electrical needs with renewable resources.

"It's a big deal for Kauai, Hawaii and really the nation," said KIUC CEO David Bissell. "It's really a remarkable achievement from a technology side and from an engineering side to do that."

The co-op's energy portfolio is diversified.

While rooftop PV systems are booming, the backbone of the island's solar power comes from two solar array farms, in Koloa and Anahola.

Additionally, five hydroelectric plants account for almost 8 percent of the island's electricity needs.

Lastly, the green energy plant burns wood chips from trees, like the invasive albizia.

All of this helps to insulate consumers from the volatility of oil.

"Having the renewables on should have a significant minimization from the cost increase of oil," Bissell said.

But could Kauai's model work in a larger urban setting like Honolulu?

Bissell thinks so.

"It becomes more of a challenge from a governance side to reach out to 3-400,000 members instead of 30,000," he said. But, "there's no structural reason why it couldn't."

Annually, 38 percent of Kauai's energy comes from renewable sources, meaning the majority of it still comes from imported oil. The co-op is on target to have 50 percent green energy in seven years.

On Oahu, about 15 percent of energy comes from renewable sources, according to HECO.

Under Hawaii law, 100 percent of electricity sales in the state must be from renewable energy source by 2045.

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