Published on January 9th, 2019 |
by Steve Hanley
January 9th, 2019 by Steve Hanley
More utility scale solar farms are coming online in Kauai and Florida as America’s electricity providers increase their commitment to renewables. Hawaii has some of the most aggressive renewable energy goals of any state in the union, primarily because its utility rates are higher than any other state. Being out in the middle of the Pacific, it has relied for a century on diesel-powered generators for its electricity.
Kauai Adds 28 MW Solar Power Plant
The northernmost island of Kauai began a transition to solar power last year when its local utility company, the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, signed a power purchase agreement with Tesla. The California company built and installed a 13 megawatt solar farm and added 52 MWh of battery storage using 272 Powerpacks.
Now a new 28 megawatt solar power plant with 100 MWh of battery storage has been completed on the Garden Isle, bring it halfway toward its goal of getting 70% of its electricity from zero emissions solar power by 2030. “We’ve passed the 50 yard line and the end zone is in sight,” KIUC CEO David Bissell told Hawaii News Now. “Now that the Lawai project is online, as much as 40 percent of our evening peak power will be supplied by stored solar energy. I think it’s safe to say this is a unique achievement in the nation and possibly the world.”
Under the terms of a new power purchase agreement with AES DE which owns the solar facility, KIUC will pay 11 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity over the next 25 years. The PPA with Tesla last year set the price at 13.9 cents per kilowatt-hour. When the Tesla facility came online, David Ige, governor of Hawaii, said, “As a state, we know how to generate power. For us, the challenge has been storing that power to use at night. Now we can do that.”
New Duke Energy Florida Solar Power Plant
Florida is at the opposite end of the scale when it comes to embracing solar. In 2015 and 2016, a consortium of power companies spent millions of dollars to promote a change to the state’s constitution that would have effectively banned rooftop solar systems. As I write this, I am in Florida and can attest that in the last month, I have seen exactly one residential solar installation. Such a waste of all the glorious sunshine that pours down on the state every day.
Duke Energy Florida was one of the members of that cabal, whose message was essentially, “It’s our grid, dammit, and we will decide who gets to use it and how.” But economics will not be denied. Duke and its confreres may not want you to have solar power, but it is more than happy to have the sun provide it with electricity. In a January 8 press release, it announced that its 74.9 megawatt Hamilton solar power plant in Jasper near the Georgia border is now in operation. Construction began in July of last year. Below is a video from the company showing a drone’s eye view of its solar facilities in Florida.
In 2019, construction will begin on the Columbia solar power plant in Fort White, Fla. Like the Hamilton facility, it will also generate 74.9 MW of electricity. It is expected to be online in March of next year. Together, the two solar power plants will remove 645 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions in Florida during their first year of commercial operation. That’s the equivalent of taking 63,000 passenger cars off the road the company says.
The company says, “The Hamilton Solar Power Plant will be a part of the DEF’s new Shared Solar Program, providing customers with the opportunity to support the development of clean energy and reduce their environmental footprint. The Shared Solar program makes it possible for everyone to participate in solar energy without installation on their property.
“Customers can subscribe to blocks of clean energy coming from the Hamilton Solar Power Plant and three other participating solar power plants in Taylor, Suwannee and Osceola counties. Residential, commercial and industrial customers are eligible to participate.”
All this good news needs a little context. The company has a goal of having 700 MW of installed solar capacity by 2022. Its total generating capacity in Florida is 9,300 MW. By lightning like calculation, solar will represent less than 8% of its energy mix three years from now. That’s not to say adding more solar farms isn’t good news, but boasting about getting less than 8% of its electricity from solar power in a state that is blessed with abundant sunshine is what my old Irish grandmother would call damning with faint praise.