$140 million solar storage plant goes online on Oahu

As reported by HNN, a new solar power and storage plant has just gone online on Oahu. This is a crucial step in Hawai’i’s goal towards total renewable energy production. Let’s talk a little about what the plant is doing and what it could mean for you.

A utility-scale power plant

According to Clearway Energy Group, the 39-megawatt plant located on 131 acres in the Mililani Agricultural Park on Oahu consists of over 123,000 panels and 156 MWh of battery storage. Each panel measures 6 feet by 3 feet and are capable of tracking with the sun to maximize energy production throughout the day. This is Clearway Energy Group’s fourth plant on Oahu, but the largest by far. The company has also constructed utility scale plants

Less reliance on fossil fuels

As you likely know, a huge majority of Hawaii’s energy is currently generated by burning imported oil. That’s the reality of living on an island right now, but the tides are changing. One reason? Solar is now more affordable than fossil fuels. In fact, according to Hawaiian Electric CEO Shelee Kimura, it’s a third of the cost of oil. That hasn’t historically been the case, but changes and improvements in solar panel efficiency and energy storage have now made it far more financially feasible than oil and coal. That’s been the crucial tipping point for global energy production, and it’s here. There are still obstacles ahead, especially for emerging economies around the world that rely heavily on petroleum products, but it’s a huge step in the right direction. Government subsidies have had to push for decades to

The other good news is that this is a state-funded and approved utility project. One obstacle around solar power is that the initial investment is high—$140 million is, after all, a lot of money. But the good news is that solar power is less costly to maintain than a coal-fired or oil plant, and once construction is completed, the solar plant all but runs itself for the lifetime of the system. A solar power plant can be maintained by as few as 2 or 3 people—much fewer than a full-scale fossil fuel plant that needs resupplying, cleaning, and repairing, requiring dozens or sometimes hundreds of people.

Here’s how we get to a fully renewable 2045

Now that Hawaii has decommissioned its last coal plant, we’re on our way to cleaner air and cleaner energy. And there’s more on the way, too—there are nine more solar facilities scheduled to be completed on the islands over the next two years. The state is clearly invested in meeting their goal of renewable energy by 2045, although there’s obviously a long way to go. Continuing to build solar and other renewable power plants will have to continue if we’re to meet that goal

What it means for you

The good news is that because renewable energy is more affordable than fossil fuels, in the long term energy costs will lower, although exactly how much and when is left to be discovered. You probably won’t see a clean energy price drop on your bill next month because of this plant. The best way to see that happen is to invest in solar for your own home. Interested? Reach out to a Mālama Solar rep today to start generating your own clean energy.