Hawaiian Electric seeks 900MW of renewables to end coal use

Hawaii's biggest utility will generate 30% of its electricity sales by the end of this year and is legally required to reach 100% by 2045

The Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) has issued a request for proposals for at least 900MW of new renewables capacity, or renewables paired with storage, with the aim of ending coal-fired power generation and reducing use of fuel oil.

Plans call for the state’s largest utility to install 594MW of capacity on Oahu, up to 203MW on Hawaii Island and 135MW on Maui. The due date for proposals in 5 November.

Projects for Maui must include energy storage. On Hawaii Island, solar must include storage but is optional for other technologies. On Oahu, pairing generation with energy storage is optional.

For Oahu, new renewable generation and storage is needed to replace the 180MW coal-fired AES Hawaii plant due to close by September 2022. It is the largest single generator there meeting 16% of peak demand. The state is heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels for power generation.

Pending negotiations of contracts and final approvals, the first renewable generation projects would come online in 2022 with the total amount of megawatts expected by 2025.

Alan Oshima, chief executive of Hawaiian Electric, said the utility will end this year with a 30% renewable energy generation portfolio. By law, the state’s utilities are required to generate 100% of their electricity sales from renewable energy resources by 2045.

A separate request for proposals for grid services from customer-sited distributed energy resources will help system operators manage reliability of grids with diverse, dynamic inputs and outputs.

HECO is seeking grid services such as fast frequency response and capacity for Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii islands with targets ranging from 4MW to 119MW.

While state officials have expressed interest in offshore wind development this will require both a clear pathway to permit projects and finding common ground with stakeholders – the Department of Defense with its key naval bases there being the most prominent.

US sees public input for potential Hawaii offshore wind leases

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The search for acceptable offshore areas was prompted by unsolicited lease requests from private developers. Denmark’s Alpha Wind Energy (AWE) seeks two zones totaling 800MW northwest and south of Oahu, while Oregon-based Progression Energy is also eyeing a 408MW project off Oahu’s southern coast.

OEM subsequently put out a request for interest to see if other developers would want to bid for the same zones. Norway’s Statoil expressed interest in all three areas, while an unidentified investor registered interest in the Oahu locations — setting the stage for possible future competitive lease sales.

Policymakers in Hawaii are looking for innovative approaches to generate clean electricity in an era of global warming.

Experts warn that Hawaii face impacts from climate change that threaten its economy, ocean views, unique ecosystems and beach-oriented lifestyles. These include coral bleaching, marine habitat and shoreline loss, and ocean acidification.