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Published on February 5th, 2016 | by Glenn Meyers


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.

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