We held a Clean Energy Town Hall on Nā Leo TV on April 30 to talk about ENGIE’s proposed Waikoloa and Puakō projects on Hawaiʻi Island, and received many questions from viewers via email, text, and phone. Here are the answers to some of the questions we did not get to answer on the air.
How did you choose where to propose these projects?
To provide the most reliable, cost-effective clean energy to Hawaiʻi Island, we considered year-round sunshine, land use designations, topography, and proximity to existing Hawaiian Electric infrastructure like transmission lines.
Will these projects impact the views from Waikoloa Village?
Solar projects have a low profile, and the latest generation of solar panels are designed to minimize glare. While the Waikoloa and Puakō projects may be visible from certain vantage points, the design is meant to minimize visual impact. We welcome public input on all topics, including this one. During the development phase, the project is subject to state and county permitting that includes reviews to optimize the landscape integration and minimize visual impact. See renderings on the project pages: Waikoloa / Puakō
What kind of impact will the community experience as these projects are built?
As with any project, some impacts during construction may include traffic, noise, and dust.That is why, the projects are located at a safe distance from residential areas. All efforts will be made to minimize those impacts. Once completed, we do not expect any traffic, noise, or dust impacts beyond the boundaries of the project.
Who is going to pay for these projects?
Hawaiian Electric organized a bidding process to select the most competitive projects. After award, ENGIE will develop, build and operate the projects for 25 years before decommissioning at no direct cost to Hawaiian Electric or to customers. ENGIE will recoup its overall investment by selling the electricity it produces to Hawaiian Electric, who will then sell it to electricity users on Hawaiʻi Island.
How will my electric bill change with these projects?
Electricity from these projects will be sold to Hawaiian Electric at a defined and publicly known price lower than electricity produced with fossil fuels. However, the cost to customers is not something an independent power producer like us controls. That’s set by Hawaiian Electric and approved by the Public Utilities Commission.
Will I get a bill from ENGIE in addition to my bill from Hawaiian Electric?
No. Customers will continue to get a bill from Hawaiian Electric, who will purchase electricity from ENGIE and resell it to customers.
How much of Hawaiʻi Island’s energy needs will these projects fulfill?
Our proposed Waikoloa project will produce 103 gigawatt hours (GWh) annually, enough to power 18,000 Hawaiʻi Island homes based on average energy usage. Our larger proposed Puakō project will produce 310 GWh annually, enough to power 55,000 Hawaiʻi Island homes.
What is the benefit of having the battery storage with the solar panels in one project?
A solar and battery storage project can make solar power available in the evening, when the sun no longer shines. In our proposed projects, batteries can provide clean power for up to 4 hours after sunset. Batteries can also smooth out solar production profile: solar power is intermittent and can rapidly decrease with a passing cloud cover, causing significant disturbance to the grid. Batteries provide a buffer to this intermittency and ensure grid stability.
How much more diversified will our energy portfolio be with this added capacity?
Hawaiʻi Island gets its energy from the most diversified mix of resources in Hawaiʻi. In addition to fossil fuel-based generation, Hawaiʻi Island is powered by wind, hydroelectric, and solar. Projects that are either under construction or awaiting regulatory approval include geothermal, biomass, and more solar. The addition of battery storage with our projects means customers on Hawaiʻi Island can use more clean energy without sacrificing reliability. Learn more about clean energy for Hawaiʻi here.
How much of an impact will these projects have on Hawaiʻi Island’s renewable energy goals?
Hawaiʻi Island’s grid is currently powered by 285.9 MW of generation capacity (excluding rooftop solar), of which 17% is renewable energy. Another 119.5 MW of renewable generation capacity is under construction or awaiting regulatory approval — if all of those projects were approved, it would bring the island’s generation capacity to 41% renewable. ENGIE’s proposed Waikoloa (30 MW) and Puakō (110 MW) projects would add significantly to Hawaiʻi Island’s renewable energy portfolio, and bring the island much closer to the goals of 70% renewable by 2030 and 100% renewable by 2045.
How many barrels of oil will this project replace?
The Waikoloa project, producing 103 GWh annually, would replace over 60,500 barrels of imported oil a year. The Puakō project, producing 310 GWh annually, would replace over 182,000 barrels of imported oil a year.
What is the estimated greenhouse gas emission reduction resulting from these projects?
The Waikoloa project, producing 103 GWh annually, will avoid 72,000 tons of carbon emissions a year compared to producing the same amount of electricity using fossil fuels — the equivalent of taking 16,000 cars off the road. The Puakō project, producing 310 GWh annually, will avoid 218,000 tons of carbon emissions a year compared to producing the same amount of electricity using fossil fuels — the equivalent of taking 47,000 cars off the road.
How long will the panels and batteries last? What will happen to them after that?
As a global actor in the world’s transition to carbon-free energy, ENGIE has access to a supply chain that prioritizes responsible sourcing and recycling. In designing and building our projects, we only consider components that can be recycled. While solar panels lose some efficiency over time, they are operating at a high level for more than 35 years. Batteries have a lifetime of about 10-12 years depending on how they’re used, so these projects anticipate scheduled augmentation or replacement of batteries over the 25 years. The panel and battery components are valuable items and will be shipped off island for recycling and repurposing — they will not be landfilled on Hawaiʻi Island.
What environmental, cultural or archaeological features could be disturbed on the project sites?
Our preliminary research suggests that there are no significant endangered species habitats, burials, cultural or archaeological sites that will be disturbed as part of the Waikoloa and Puakō projects. More in-depth research and analysis will be part of the permitting process should these projects be selected. Of course, if we discover anything in the course of permitting, construction or operation, we will follow the appropriate laws and cultural protocols for the situation.
Why were these projects proposed, and who will select the projects to be built?
ENGIE proposed these projects in response to a Hawaiian Electric solicitation for clean energy projects on Hawaiʻi Island. A panel of Hawaiian Electric officials will select the projects they would like to build, then seek permission from the Public Utilities Commission to do so. The project selections are subject to contract negotiations and regulatory approvals.
What is the timeline for selecting projects?
ENGIE’s Waikoloa and Puakō projects have been proposed as part of Phase 2 of Hawaiian Electric’s largest-ever procurement of clean energy. Hawaiian Electric’s final selection of projects for this phase is scheduled for May 8.
What considerations are being taken to ensure the safety of these projects?
In addition to ENGIE’s experience building and operating safe clean energy systems around the world, the team working on the Waikoloa and Puakō projects includes two members with two decades of combined experience leading emergency management and public safety efforts for the County of Hawaiʻi. We will plan for safety considerations on the project site and beyond with local public safety agencies.
The Waikoloa and Puakō projects are in very dry areas. Will the solar panels or batteries start a brush fire? What happens if there is a fire?
The project site will be maintained throughout the life of the project to reduce the risk of fires. Brush will be cleared from the project site prior to construction and maintained throughout the life of the project. The panels are low risk, and the batteries will be equipped with fire detection and suppression systems. The driveways built to access the site will be made available to the Hawaiʻi Fire Department should they be needed to access land adjacent to the project sites, aiding efforts to fight brush fires.
Are the panels and batteries able to withstand a natural disaster?
Hawaiʻi Island is susceptible to many kinds of natural disasters, including hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and more, and projects are designed with these potential disasters in mind. Our panels and batteries are designed to withstand hurricane-force winds up to 175 mph. Both the Waikoloa and Puakō sites are outside the tsunami evacuation zone. Site layout designs avoid stream beds and other features likely to flood in a storm.
Do you expect COVID-19 will delay your projects?
Based on the best current information, we do not anticipate COVID-19 to delay our projects. The safety of the community and of our workers is our priority, and we will move forward following all safety guidelines as required and recommended. In addition to the community outreach done before the COVID-19 pandemic and the virtual one-on-one meetings we have had since, we have reached out to the Waikoloa and Puakō communities by direct mail and produced a Clean Energy Town Hall on Nā Leo TV which aired on Thursday, April 30.
How many similar projects has ENGIE built?
ENGIE is the world’s largest Independent Power Producer. We have built over 130 utility-scale solar projects around the world, and delivered over 40 solar + battery storage projects. In the United States alone, we have over 1.7 GW of solar plants in operation and development. We also have a longstanding presence in the Pacific: in French Polynesia, Vanuatu and New Caledonia ENGIE is the local utility – like Hawaiian Electric – in charge of power generation and supply. Most recently, ENGIE was awarded a 50 MW solar and 300 MWh battery storage project in Guam by the Guam Power Authority.
Who will represent ENGIE in the community?
Since this project was initially proposed to Hawaiian Electric, there have been two ENGIE representatives based on Hawaiʻi Island, in addition to the ENGIE Hawaiʻi office in Honolulu. ENGIE has been in contact with the Waikoloa and Puakō community associations, and will continue to engage with the community for the life of the project. Meet our team!
To contact an ENGIE representative on Hawaiʻi Island, email email@example.com or call / text the project hotline at 808-315-5531.
What is ENGIE’s experience in Hawaiʻi?
ENGIE established its office in Honolulu in 2008, and has been an active partner in developing energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions for many customers, including the State of Hawaiʻi (Department of Education), the City and County of Honolulu (H-POWER), and others. Learn more about our experience here.