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Kauai energy project could surpass 2030 renewable goal

June 9, 2017 - 11:09am

LIHUE — An energy project on Kauai could set the island on a track to surpass the new goal of 70 percent energy generation from renewable resources by 2030.

Kauai Island Utility Cooperative officials presented a progress report on the pumped storage hydro project this week, The Garden Island reported.

The project would store power like a battery. It would use electrical power from photovoltaic panels to push water up a hill from a lower reservoir during the day. Then, in the evening, the water would flow back down the hill, through turbines.

“The general idea is no power generation when the sun is out, just pumping and storing, and in the evening or nighttime hours, we’ll have generation and distribution as needed,” cooperative representative Jason Heinz said.

The project is expected to cost $80 million to $100 million.

“This is a project that’s very important for renewable energy,” state Rep. Dee Morikawa said. “People around the state will be watching this.”

The cooperative has been working on the project for a few years and land agreements are expected to take a few months. If the agreements are solidified, three years of engineering, studying and permitting is expected.

“One of the big things this project does is deliver irrigation water,” Heinz said. “The project doesn’t consume any water, it makes energy as the water is delivered for agriculture purposes.”

There were concerns about whether trout would be impacted by the project, but Heinz said he expects the project to help the fish.

“It should benefit the trout habitat, that’s a priority as we’re designing the project, to make sure the trout are protected,” he said.

Dave Bissell, the cooperative’s president, emphasized the project isn’t a done deal because economics must be worked out each step of the way.

“There’s a whole stack of dominoes that have to fall right for it to go forward,” he said.

If the project continues to move forward as it already has, the cooperative could supply more than 15 percent of the islands’ electricity, Heinz said.

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