Hawaiian Homes Commission Approves Land for Kauai Solar Project

ANAHOLA, Kauai, Hawaii, October 28, 2011 (ENS) – A land request for the largest solar project in Hawaii has been approved by the Hawaiian Homes Commission for 60 acres on the island of Kauai.

At the October meeting of the Hawaiian Homes Commission, a request by the nonprofit Homestead Community Development Corporation was approved unanimously for 60 acres of land to build a solar project in partnership with the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, a member-owned utility serving all of the island of Kauai.

The Homestead Community Development Corporation is the tax exempt development arm of the Anahola Hawaiian Homes Association of Kauai, and other homestead associations in the state. Founded by the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement in 2009, HCDC’s mission is to develop community and economic facilities and projects important to homestead areas and the Native Hawaiian people.

“We are grateful to Chairman [Alapaki] Nahale-a and all of the Commissioners for partnering with us to build the largest solar project in Hawaii,” said Robin Danner, president of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, who chairs the HCDC Board. “This is an exciting time for our homestead trust and for Native Hawaiian communities.”

The island of Kauai (in red) is the westernmost of the major Hawaiian islands. The red dot on the inset map marks the town of Anahola, pop. about 2,000. (Map credit Wikipedia)

The request for land in the town of Anahola on Kauai’s northeast coast includes 55 acres for a 10 megawatt solar project, and five acres to build a service center and administration offices.

“This project represents one of the most collaborative approaches to achieve lower cost energy for the people of Kauai, saving our coop members just over $26 million,” said David Bissel, president and chief executive of KIUC. “The partnership with the Hawaiian homestead community in Anahola is a win-win for everyone on Kauai.”

“This is breaking new ground on so many levels,” Danner said. “The Commission’s action facilitates one of the largest renewable energy projects in the state, developed by our utility coop and Native Hawaiians, with the potential to bring over $50 million in economic impact to the island and strengthening the Hawaiian Home Land Trust to create homesteading opportunities.”

HCDC has begun community consultation outreach, to identify a community benefits package that will likely include local hire and contracting strategies where possible, production revenue sharing, project design, land use revenues, and other aspects.

“It’s a great opportunity for Native Hawaiians to fully participate in a project that puts our land to good use to benefit our homestead, and the larger Kauai community by helping KIUC to generate lower cost renewable power,” said Lorraine Rapozo, an Anahola homesteader on the HCDC board.

The Sleeping Giant mountain above Anahola Bay, Kauai (Photo courtesy Dept. of Hawaiian Homelands)

“This project fits perfectly with the strategic plan of the Hawaiian Homes Commission to empower our homestead people and to fully engage in the larger goal of reducing Hawaii’s dependency on fossil fuel,” said Rapozo.

The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative has begun efforts to obtain approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service to reallocate up to $68 million of previously approved loan funds to construct the solar project on Kauai. The funds were originally approved for a 10 megawatt combustion turbine generator.

To qualify for federal tax incentives and Hawaii state tax incentives, KIUC’s board of directors in September approved the formation of a new for-profit subsidiary, KIUC Renewable Solutions One, LLC.

The for-profit subsidiary is necessary because as a tax-exempt cooperative KIUC does not qualify for the federal or state incentives.

KIUC expects that up to 50 percent of the cost of the solar photovoltaic portion of the facility will be paid for by the incentives. The subsidiary company will be 100 percent owned and controlled by the cooperative.

“KIUC is following a model employed by other electric cooperatives, to use a subsidiary to qualify for tax incentives only available to for-profit companies,” said Bissell.

“We will combine the tax credits, our own low cost financing, and the declining cost of solar photovoltaic systems to produce energy at significantly less than the cost of power generated from oil,” he said.

Today, a majority of KIUC’s generation still comes from fossil fuels, all of which must be shipped into the state, but the co-op has expanded its portfolio of renewable technologies. KIUC now has 17 megawatts of solar PV and biomass-fired generation projects under Power Purchase Agreements.

Approximately 35 megawatts of low-impact hydropower projects are being studied, but Bissell says KIUC has not determined whether additional clean, renewable hydropower can be feasibly developed on Kauai.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved.