Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative Cranking Renewables

Kaua'i Island Renewable Energy

It’s the little utility that could – Hawaii’s Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative  (KUIC) has reported that on 4 days during January, renewables made up 90 percent of the island’s electricity.

Kaua’i Island has an area of 1,430 km² and a population of around 66,000. KIUC is a non-profit, member owned electricity company that services nearly 33,000 electricity accounts on the island.

During January, renewables provided an average of 77 per cent of Kaua’i Island’s electricity demand during peak solar hours. The company reports that on a typical day, the renewables percentages were solar at 62%, biomass 8% and hydroelectric 7% during peak hours.

KUIC expects 37 percent of all electricity generated on the island this year will be sourced from a mix of solar power, hydropower and biomass. It’s quite a jump from just 5 percent in 2009.

The utility had set its sights on a 50% renewables target to be achieved by 2023; but now believes it will attain that goal by 2019.

The cooperative claims there’s no other utility in the USA that has a higher percentage of large scale solar on its grid.

“In five years we’ve gone from being a place that’s almost totally dependent on imported oil for power generation to a place that is an industry leader in its adoption of renewable energy,” said David Bissell, president and CEO of KIUC.

Its solar projects include the Koloa array, which is a 12-megawatt system producing 6 per cent of Kauai’s energy needs and avoids 1.7 million gallons of oil consumption a year. Another of its large scale projects is the Anahola array; which is also 12-megawatts and consists of 59,000 solar panels.

The utility has so far rolled out 10.5 megawatts of battery energy storage; including a 6 megawatt lithium-ion battery system used with the Anahola solar array.

Just 5 years ago, only 311 small scale solar power systems were in use by KUIC’s customers. Today, 10 percent of residential customers have solar PV arrays installed.

KIUC was the first utility in Hawaii to begin using a “smart grid” after successful deployment of 28,000 smart meters in 2013.