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Hawaii energizes largest 'PV peaker' amid solar-plus-storage surge

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Hawaii energizes largest 'PV peaker' amid solar-plus-storage surge

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AES Corp's Lawai Solar and Energy Storage Project delivers power to the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative.

Source: AES Corp.

Kauai Island Utility Cooperative and AES Corp. energized what they said is the world's largest operational "PV peaker" on the Hawaiian island, combining 28 MW of solar photovoltaics with 20 MW of five-hour energy storage, or 100 MWh, the companies announced Jan. 8.

The Lawai Solar and Energy Storage Project (Kauai Hybrid Solar & Energy Storage Project), relying on technology from SunPower Corp., will deliver power at 11 cents per kWh under a 25-year contract between AES Distributed Energy Inc. and Kauai's utility.

"Replacing fossil fuels with stable, lower-priced renewables helps us keep rates as low as possible for our members, and is also good for the environment," Kauai Island Utility Cooperative CEO David Bissell said in an email. "We're demonstrating that this technology can be used effectively at utility scale, and we're gratified to see similar projects being pursued not just in Hawaii but throughout the world."

Delivering roughly 11% of the island's electricity, the project will offset the use of 3.7 million gallons of diesel fuel per year and pushes renewables to more than 50% of Kauai's power mix, according to the companies.

"We believe this project is a significant step toward ushering in the wider era of firm renewables," AES President and CEO Andrés Gluski added in a news release.

AES currently is constructing another solar-plus-storage facility on Kauai, a 19.3-MW solar project with 70 MWh of battery storage on land leased from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Such projects are quickly emerging throughout the Hawaiian islands. Responding to the state's 100% renewable energy mandate and regulators' call for more battery-backed solar projects, Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. utilities on Jan. 3 proposed seven new contracts for solar-plus-storage facilities on the islands of Oahu, Maui and Hawaii. The projects, including roughly 262 MW of solar and 1,048 MWh of storage, have an average price of about 9.4 cents/kWh.

The projects are part of a development boom for solar-storage hybrid systems around the United States, including thousand of megawatts of proposals and hundreds of megawatts already online, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data.