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Mililani I Solar Spearheads Oahu’s Transition To Clean Energy

Mililani I Solar’s August launch makes it the first utility-scale solar-plus-storage project operation in Oahu, HI. Clearway Energy Group is the force behind Mililani I, the first of nine clean energy projects that will come online on the Hawaiian island by 2024. Oahu is fully transitioning  to clean energy as a part of Gov. David Ige’s 100% renewable power target law.

Photo Courtesy Hawaiian Electric

This new solar-storage facility opened before its scheduled start date, and its significant energy output almost fully replaces a retiring AES coal plant. Mililani I is located near Pearl Harbor, on fields that once grew sugar cane. A decade ago, that farmland was sold to First Wind, an early solar company. After that company was sold to soon-to-collapse SunEdison, the process to create Mililani I began. It is a prime example of a tenacious solar company that found a great team and launched successfully.

“Mililani I enhances grid reliability, and energy from the facility will help ensure a smooth transition as the coal plant retires,” said Rebecca Dayhuff Matsushima, vice president of resource procurement at Hawaiian Electric.

Oahu has made significant strides toward renewable power sources. Last year, almost one-third of the island’s energy came from sustainable and renewable sources.

Hawaiian Electric has vowed to reduce carbon emissions by 70% by 2030, and Mililani I is a strong step in that direction. 

Mililani I is a critical part of Hawaiian Electric’s and the state’s plan to eliminate burning imported oil to power the islands. The move to solar is designed to create sustainable power sources and stabilize energy costs for residents. Mililani I generates 39 megawatts and includes a 156-megawatt-hour battery at only 9 cents per kilowatt hour — significantly below the cost of producing energy via traditional fossil fuel sources. This energy will be available to all Hawaiian Electric customers on Oahu.

Photo Courtesy Hawaiian Electric 

“Renewable energy projects are already producing cheaper power than new fossil fuel projects in Hawaii, and it’s only going to get cheaper as renewable technology advances, unlike fossil fuels which will only grow more expensive as they become more difficult to extract from a shrinking supply,” said Rep. Chris Lee, state representative and chair of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee. “The faster we move toward renewable energy, the faster we can stop exporting billions from our local economy to import expensive fossil fuels.”

The entire state of Hawaii is working hard to wean itself off of burning imported oil for power, a source that costs the state $5 billion yearly. Led by Ige’s Powering Past Coal Task Force, the transition to a renewable power grid is taking significant steps with each new solar facility. 

Hawaiian officials hope residents of Oahu will see numerous long-term benefits from these solar projects, including a more-reliable power grid, lowered state expenses, and significant reductions in individuals’ and businesses’ power bills.

And, of course, a cleaner, more sustainable environment. “We’re seeing with this project, solar-plus-battery, that we can generate energy at significantly below the cost to produce energy by fossil fuel — as much as two-thirds less,” Ige said.

Photo Courtesy Hawaiian Electric 

“Making the transition to renewable, indigenous resources for power generation will allow us to keep more of that money at home, thereby improving our economy, environment, and energy security,” said Ige. 

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