Solar, Wind Power

REC Solar Breaks 27 MW Installed Capacity in Hawaii

Six new solar energy installations at two notable Hawaiian landmarks are ramping up the stakes in a race that may bring the 50th state to number one status where U.S. solar deployment is concerned.

This week’s announcement by REC Solar of the completion of two rooftop arrays at W.M. Keck Observatory and four ground-mount arrays at the historic Dole Plantation expands the solar powerhouse’s Hawaiian footprint to just over 27 megawatts of installed capacity since 2008. Of that, 19 megawatts have been completed or are under construction this year.

Following a year in which the state saw installation of 150 MW of capacity and outpaced all other states besides Arizona, the successful launch of these projects brings evidence that widespread proliferation of sun power in the Aloha State is continuing its upward trend — despite continued opposition from utilities like Hawaiian Electric (HECO).

Drew Bradley, sales manager for REC Solar, believes the state is well on its way to meeting and surpassing the mandate put in place that will require Hawaii to obtain 40 percent of its power from local renewable generation by 2030.

“There’s no reason why we can’t blow that right out of the water and go right on past 40 percent by 2030,” Bradley said. “With all of the sunshine and the wind and the resources we have, I expect we’ll go far and above that.”

The Dole Plantation received four ground-mount solar panel racking systems totaling 186 kilowatts of capacity, while Keck Observatory received two solar roof-mounted PV systems together totalling 174 kilowatts of capacity. Keck’s units were installed atop the facility’s headquarters and Visiting Scientist Quarters — an irony not lost on Steve Jefferson of Keck Observatory, who said he gets “a real kick knowing we are harnessing the power of a star to view other stars and the cosmos that spawned them.” See image below.

Looking ahead, Bradley points to two projects currently in the works that will see REC Solar installing solar arrays for the Hawaii Department of Transportation and the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC), an independent electricity co-op comprised of more than 30,000 customers.

The first project, which will install 2.65 megawatts of solar across Honolulu, Hilo and Maui airports, will operate under a subcontract with Johnson Controls. On the island of Kauai, REC Solar has also launched construction on a 12-megawatt, 60-acre wide project in Anahola funded by the KIUC. Scheduled for completion in 2015, Bradley says it will be “the biggest solar project in the state” when finished. Estimates state that the Anahola array’s electricity generation will match the equivalent of five percent of Kauai’s annual energy needs.

Drawing comparisons to what the KIUC has managed to accomplish in comparison with the otherwise lackluster solar efforts of the much larger HECO, Bradley said, “It’s an example of what can be done when a utility is motivated to pursue renewables. The KIUC is doing it because it makes economic sense. Who needs to import tons of petroleum when they can take advantage of the abundant sunshine that’s already here?”