HECO plans $148 mil­lion bat­tery project

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - BUSINESS REPORT - By An­drew Gomes agomes@starad­ver­tiser.com

The state’s largest util­ity is propos­ing to plug two bat­ter­ies — re­ally big bat­ter­ies — into Oahu’s elec­tric­ity grid to in­crease devel­op­ment, ef­fi­ciency and cost sav­ings of re­new­able en­ergy pro­duc­tion plants.

Hawai­ian Elec­tric Co. wants to es­tab­lish the en­ergy stor­age in Lee­ward Oahu at an es­ti­mated cost of

$147.5 mil­lion and have the sys­tems op­er­a­tional in about two years.

The two bat­ter­ies com­bined would be ca­pa­ble of stor­ing the equiv­a­lent of enough elec­tric­ity to power 360 homes for a month based on the av­er­age Oahu home’s use of 500 kilo­watt-hours a month.

If ap­proved by the state Public Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion, the bat­ter­ies would be the first large-scale power stor­age sys­tems for the elec­tric grid de­vel­oped by Hawai­ian Elec­tric, though the util­ity com­pany did test three rel­a­tively small 1-megawatt bat­ter­ies on Oahu, Molokai and Hawaii is­land about two years ago.

HECO said the two lithium-ion bat­ter­ies would pay for them­selves and save ratepay­ers money by us­ing re­new­able power that may other­wise be squan­dered in­stead of fos­sil fu­els.

Cur­rently, if so­lar and wind farms pro­duce more en­ergy than is needed to meet de­mand, the ex­cess can go to waste. Peak pro­duc­tion for so­lar and wind farms typ­i­cally oc­curs in the mid­dle of the day, while peak con­sump­tion of en­ergy oc­curs at night. Stor­ing en­ergy pro­duced by those farms dur­ing the day for use at night would al­low HECO to use cheaper re­new­able en­ergy in­stead of more ex­pen­sive fos­sil fu­els.

“Sys­tem-wide every­body ben­e­fits be­cause the more cheap re­new­able en­ergy we can use, the less ex­pen­sive oil we have to buy,” said HECO spokesman Peter Rosegg.

One bat­tery would be able to store 80 megawatt-hours of en­ergy and would be con­nected to a 20-megawatt HECO so­lar farm that re­cently broke ground near Pearl Har­bor on Navy land. This so­lar farm’s size is ca­pa­ble of putting out 20 megawatts of elec­tric­ity at any mo­ment, and the bat­tery can store about four hours worth of peak pro­duc­tion from the farm for later use. HECO said the bat­tery is el­i­gi­ble for a 30 per­cent fed­eral tax credit be­cause it would be con­nected to a so­lar farm, and es­ti­mates devel­op­ment cost at $43.5 mil­lion.

The other bat­tery would be able to store 100 MWh of en­ergy and would be built at HECO’s Camp­bell In­dus­trial Park gen­er­a­tion sta­tion, where it would re­ceive power from the grid. HECO said the site was se­lected be­cause there is no land cost, and in­fra­struc­ture, in­clud­ing un­der­ground lines con­nected to an ad­ja­cent sub­sta­tion, al­ready ex­ist. HECO es­ti­mates the cost for this bat­tery at $104 mil­lion.

Jeff Mikulina, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Blue Planet Foun­da­tion, said his or­ga­ni­za­tion, which ad­vo­cates for re­new­able en­ergy, has been push­ing the util­ity to in­cor­po­rate more stor­age for a long time. “It’s good to see that Hawai­ian Elec­tric sees the value of adding util­ity-scale stor­age to the grid,” he said.

Mikulina, who noted that Kauai Is­land Util­ity Co­op­er­a­tive pre­vi­ously con­tracted with a few re­new­able en­ergy de­vel­op­ers to pro­vide so­lar farms with bat­tery stor­age, ques­tioned whether a com­pet­i­tive bid­ding process might pro­duce util­ity-scale bat­ter­ies for Oahu’s grid at a lower cost.

HECO said it is also ac­cept­ing pro­pos­als for new util­ity-scale re­new­able power gen­er­a­tion that in­cludes stor­age. The com­pany is seek­ing 220 megawatts of re­new­able en­ergy on Oahu, 60 megawatts for Maui and 20 megawatts for Hawaii is­land.

If HECO re­ceives ap­proval for the two bat­ter­ies, it an­tic­i­pates start­ing con­struc­tion in late 2019 and fin­ish­ing in 2020.

COUR­TESY HAWAI­IAN ELEC­TRIC

Hawai­ian Elec­tric Co. is propos­ing two big bat­ter­ies, in­clud­ing a 100 megawatt-hours bat­tery, in Lee­ward Oahu at an es­ti­mated cost of $147.5 mil­lion. A 1-megawatt test bat­tery at Camp­bell In­dus­trial Park is shown.

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