The Waikoloa plant is expected to lower residential monthly utility bills by $5.

A new solar farm has begun operating in Waikoloa on the Big Island.

AES Corp.’s Waikoloa Solar + Storage project started feeding power into the island’s grid last month, according to Hawaiian Electric.

Waikoloa Solar + Storage. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2022)

The utility said in a news release Monday that AES has a 25-year power purchase agreement that allows it to sell energy to Hawaiian Electric at 9 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s one of the lowest rates for energy in Hawaii and is expected to reduce customers’ monthly bills by about $5, the release says.

Waikoloa Solar + Storage can generate up to 30 megawatts and is supported by a 120 megawatt-hour battery storage system. The energy produced is expected to power nearly 14,000 homes, said Sandra Larsen, AES Hawaii market business leader.

The solar farm is the Big Island’s first and largest solar plus storage project. It’s located on 300 acres on Waikoloa Road, 7.5 miles from Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway. Construction began in November 2021.

With the Waikoloa project online, Hawaii is now producing 54% of its energy from renewable sources, according to the utility.

Another large solar project on the Big Island is expected to be completed next year. It’s called Hale Kuawehi Solar and is being developed by Canada’s Innergex Renewable Energy on land owned by Parker Ranch near Waimea.

Hale Kuawehi is also being built to generate 30 megawatts with a 120 megawatt-hour battery storage system. Once online, the project is expected to be capable of powering 14,600 households.

Innergex Renewable Energy is also planning to build a 15-megawatt solar farm with a 60-megawatt battery storage system on Maui. The Paeahu project is still making its way through the government approval process and has faced some opposition from residents of the nearby Maui Meadows subdivision.

Besides the potential risks of water pollution, flooding and wildfires sparked by transmission lines, project critics have also raised concerns about glare from solar panels, loss of open, scenic land, noise and dust impacts, the use of herbicides for vegetation management and “spiritual impacts from destruction of land,” according to court papers.

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