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Published on February 5th, 2016 | by Glenn Meyers

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Kaua‘i Cooperative Integrates Over 90% Renewables Four Times In January

February 5th, 2016 by  

A significant renewable energy milestone has been achieved for a utility cooperative in Kaua‘i, Hawaii.

This January the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative reports it obtained 90% or more of its electricity from renewables on four occasions during the month.

Kauai sign shutterstock_149577740In addition to its baseload capacities of 8% biomass, 7% hydroelectric and ramping diesel generation, Utility DIVE reports KIUC achieved up to 77% solar in its power mix. This represents the most solar ever integrated by a US utility.

“That a small co-op on Kaua‘i can become a world and national leader in energy transformation in such a brief time is something all of our members can be proud of and celebrate,” said KIUC president and CEO David Bissell in a press announcement.

“No other utility in the U.S. has a higher percentage of large-scale solar on its grid than KIUC. Germany, which has moved more quickly than any other industrialized nation to shift from nuclear and fossil fuels to renewables, reported that for one hour on Aug. 23, 2015, 83 percent of the electricity used during the day came from renewable resources.”

“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,” he said.

KIUC’s rooftop solar penetration is growing and it has two utility-scale solar installations, five hydroelectric facilities and a newly operational biomass plant that burns albizia wood chips.

KIUC Spokesperson Jim Kelly said on an average day in January, solar represented about 62% of the utility’s generation, making renewables 77% of its power.

The recently-added biomass plant is seen as important to integrating the high levels of solar, Kelly said. “It gives us renewable generation that is firm power.”

To integrate high levels of solar, KIUC also upgraded its conventional diesel generators so the electricity generation system can be more responsive to solar variability, Kelly said.

Air permits were modified to allow generators to run at below 50% loads. Generator governors were tuned to ramp faster. Relay protection and load shed schemes were redesigned. Solar inverters and battery inverters were adjusted to ride through wider frequency and voltage excursions.

“Being an engineer in the control room is a lot more challenging than it was six months ago,” Kelly told Utility Dive. “There are things happening constantly and it is a real team effort to keep it in balance.”

The co-op is on pace to get 50% of its power from renewable resources in seven years, according to Hawaii News Now.

Renewable energy accounted for 90% or more of the KIUC fuel mix four times this January:

  • Jan. 13: 61 minutes at or above 90% renewables with 59 MW of demand and an average resource mix of 71% solar, 8% hydro, 11% biomass, 10% diesel
  • Jan. 16: 34 minutes at or above 90% renewables with 57 MW of demand and an average resource mix of 73% solar, 8% hydro, 9% biomass, 10% diesel
  • Jan. 17: 34 minutes at or above 90% renewables with 53 MW of demand and an average resource mix of 72% solar, 8% hydro, 10% biomass and 10% diesel
  • Jan. 18: 5 minutes at or above 90% renewables with 58 MW of demand and an average resource mix of 77% solar, 6% hydro, 7% biomass and 10% diesel

Key benefits of KIUC’s renewable portfolio strategy include:

  • 30% reduction in oil consumption from 2010 to 2016
  • Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to well below the 1990 level

Image: Kauai sign via Shutterstock

 
 
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About the Author

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.



  • Brian

    Great news. One thing I don’t want is building wind farms to transport electricity via undersea cable to Oahu. Decentralize the grid. Roof top solar combined with wind farms in certain areas can easily provide 100% renewable energy for each island in Hawaii, so they can end expensive imports. Kauai is a beautiful island. Let’s not destroy it by covering it with wind turbines to power Oahu. Each Island can provide all it’s own energy needs with wind and decentralized roof top solar.

  • super390

    Is there any room for pumped hydro storage in Hawaii?

    • Wayne Williamson

      my guess is yes, and my second guess is that no one has considered it….

  • neroden

    They’re putting in some big battery banks on Kauai. I say “big”, but by utility standards they aren’t very big, they’re just much bigger than we would put in for a residential or commercial application. They’ll probably be at 100% renewable pretty soon.

  • Kraylin

    My goal is not to diminish the efforts here as I think it is great news but let’s put it into perspective. I was just in Kauai’i for Christmas this year and that island is very very small. I had to wiki its population to find out it is only around 70,000. Still admirable what they have done in 5 years but its a lot easier with such a small capacity requirement. “”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,”

    I am far more impressed with the claim “”Germany, which has moved more quickly than any other industrialized nation to shift from nuclear and fossil fuels to renewables, reported that for one hour on Aug. 23, 2015, 83 percent of the electricity used during the day came from renewable resources.””

    83 percent? Way to go germany! 80 MILLION + population….

    • JamesWimberley

      Disagree. It’s technically much more difficult to manage very high integration of variable renewables in a small, isolated system. Big ones get automatic smoothing from large numbers and geographical dispersion, plus interconnect options. Hats off to Kaua’i.

      • Kraylin

        You are disagreeing with a point I did not make or intend for it to be taken that way. My point is more from a production and cost standpoint. To provide power for such a small population takes a lot less capital and time.

  • Dan

    They sound ready for batteries to replace those diesel generators. Maybe they could start small with the batteries to learn how to integtate that technology and get some use out of the upgrades they paid for. Good thing batteries are so modular making it easy to expand energy storage without much additional hardware (i think).

  • Kevin McKinney

    Nice. Sounds like gyro or battery frequency regulation would help out the control room a bit–and maybe help decrease diesel use further?

    • Frank

      That is exactly what I was thinking too. The odds of that happening go up with every price drop in batteries, and every increase in the number of customers using batteries successfully.

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