Details emerge on Ikehu Molokai project to convert island to 100 percent renewable energy

| April 30, 2014 | 1 Comment

Ikehu Molokai News Release

As previously reported, the Ikehu Molokai project proposes to convert the island’s electricity to 100 percent renewable energy. While the initial technical design of the project has evolved, the fundamental goals for the Ikehu Molokai project have not changed:

• Stabilize and reduce the cost of electricity for Molokai residents and businesses.
• Enable the grid to absorb more distributed renewable energy (for example, residential and commercial rooftop solar systems).
• Make Molokai self-sufficient in energy, putting island residents more in control of their energy future, and help make the island a global model of sustainability.
• Produce electricity for Molokai only — no connection to a cable or export to other islands.
• Make Molokai better able to keep the lights on in the event of a disruption in energy supply from off-island (such as natural disasters or oil shortages).
• Protect the environment by eliminating carbon pollution.
• Create job opportunities and lower the cost of living for island residents.

The idea for the project was first introduced in October 2013 with the intent of starting a community-based planning process to help insure that the design of the project addresses community needs and concerns while also implementing local knowledge and values into the project.

Princeton Energy, the company proposing Ikehu Molokai, is currently focused on confirming the best location, the best technology, the design details, and the economics that support the project goals. Based on input from the first round of community input meetings, we would like to present the following project updates.

PHASING FOR THE IKEHU MOLOKAI PROJECT. With the ultimate goal of converting the island to 100 percent renewable energy, we propose to implement the project in phases, starting with a first phase in 2016, which will convert about 40 percent of the island’s electric system to renewable energy. We think that it makes sense to implement the project in phases for several reasons. First, it will give the community a chance to see some results without committing to a full change-out to renewables. Second, it will give the utility a chance to integrate a large energy storage system smoothly into their operations. Third, it will give the Ikehu Molokai team the opportunity to monitor how the Molokai grid operates technically, which will be helpful as we progress toward 100 percent renewable energy.

PHOTOVOLTAIC ENERGY AS THE SOURCE OF ELECTRICITY GENERATION. We have settled on photovoltaic generation as the recommended source of electricity generation for Phase One. We have analyzed all forms of renewable energy for the project, but we have come to the conclusion that photovoltaics works best for Molokai. Photovoltaic energy is low-impact: quiet in operation, low-rise, no fire risk, negligible impact on wildlife, water, and human safety. Photovoltaic generation is already common throughout Hawaii. Also, in our analyses, we have found no significant advantage for any other technology over photovoltaics in terms of rate relief for Molokai.

LOCATION OF THE IKEHU MOLOKAI PROJECT. In our last update, we described the two alternative locations for the Ikehu Molokai project: an area near Manila Camp and in the industrial park near the Maui Electric Company power plant. Below are preliminary layouts of photovoltaic field for the first phase of Ikehu Molokai in these two alternate locations.

Ikehu Molokai Alternate Location #1: Manila Camp

Ikehu Molokai Alternate Location #1: Manila Camp

 Ikehu Molokai Alternate Location #2: Industrial Area east of MECo power plant

Ikehu Molokai Alternate Location #2: Industrial Area east of MECo power plant

 Ikehu Molokai Alternate Location #3: Industrial Area northwest of MECo power plant

Ikehu Molokai Alternate Location #3: Industrial Area northwest of MECo power plant

The locations in the industrial area seem to make the most sense. The Manila Camp location is adjacent to many homes, and the residents of those homes are understandably concerned about the impact of the project on their lives. On the other hand, the industrial area is farther from residences and already has the MECo power plant located there. Also, the location by the MECo power plant will reduce the cost of interconnection and make operational coordination with MECo easier.

We understand that there may be cultural and environmental considerations for all proposed locations. We are committed to engaging the community on these matters to be sure that any such concern and/or input is fully considered before any placement decisions are finalized.

STORAGE OF ELECTRICITY FOR USE AT NIGHT. We are evaluating a wide range of technologies for energy storage, including pumped storage hydroelectric, flow batteries, lithium ion batteries, advanced lead acid batteries, sodium sulphur batteries, and compressed air energy storage. We are continuing to analyze them and will present the options to the community in the near future.

PROJECT ECONOMICS. Our goal for the Ikehu Molokai project has been to reduce the cost of power on Molokai by at least 5 cents per KWh. With our current costs, it appears that we will meet this goal. We project that Phase 1 of Ikehu Molokai will save Molokai $786,000 per year in electricity costs, or an average about $300 per year per meter. Later phases of Ikehu Molokai are expected to bring the island to 100 percent renewable electricity and achieve additional savings. The capital cost of Phase 1 of the Ikehu Molokai project is currently projected to be $36 million. The project is not projected to return the investor’s money and start to show a return on investment for at least 15 years. However, the project is eligible for tax credits from both the state and federal governments, which makes the investment viable for investors.

We will continue to work with MECo and the Molokai community to finalize the design, engineering, and economics of the project. We understand that this will be an ongoing process and that broad level community support and understanding of the project is critical to its success.

We will be holding additional meetings on Molokai in the near future to discuss progress on the project and to continue the process of utilizing community feedback to guide the design of the project. Notice of these meetings will be in the media and on our website.

In the meantime, we invite comments from the Molokai community. Please use the comment link on the Ikehu Molokai website

Mahalo. The Ikehu Molokai team

Category: Business, News, Sustainability

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  1. Marty says:

    There’s more at stake than keeping the lights on, the monitors glowing, our cell phones charged. The biggest class of power consumer on Molokai involves pumping water. No power means most of us have no water.
    I applaud the PV solution.

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