HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Kapolei Energy Storage facility will be the first of its kind in the state, paving the way for the rest of the nation to transition to renewable energy. Hawaiian Electric (HECO) said the battery storage facility will allow energy produced by solar or wind to be used during peak evening hours or even overnight. 

It is described as a crucial piece of the state’s plan to reach 100% renewable energy by 2045.

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The KES is less than a year from being finished, and it promises to be the constant link that allows energy from renewable sources to keep the light on. 

HECO’s Vice President of Resource Procurement Rebecca Dayhuff Matsushima said the goal is to fire up fewer fossil fuel energy-producing facilities. Hawaii’s last coal power plant closed on September first.

Matsushima said, “We will be able to store the energy during the day here and use it during the evening when traditionally we would just be turning on large fossil fuel units. So the great thing about this, it will provide us about 10% of our evening peak power.”

The KES is not an electricity-producing facility, but it is expected to provide a stable source of electricity to the island by storing power from renewable sources like geothermal, solar and wind.

HECO partnered with Plus Power for the battery project. 

The Plus Power Head of Policy and Communication Polly Shaw said, “If you think of voltage fluctuation on the grid, this could provide some stabilizing spurts of energy, akin to a pacemaker on a grid, and in the worst case scenario if the grid were to default and collapse it can help Hawaiian electric jump-start the grid.”

The State’s Chief Energy Officer Scott Glenn said Oahu is about 30% into the state’s goal of ending the use of fossil fuel for electricity.  

He said with the decommissioning of the coal plant, other renewable energy sources will be able to produce more power for the grid.

Glenn said, “People often say, ‘Hey, I see a wind turbine, it’s a windy day, why isn’t it turning?’ And probably because there’s too much renewable energy on the grid. And so when we had the coal plant, you couldn’t add that on because the coal plant had to burn or whatever it had to burn out.”

He said over the years, the state will be adding more renewables and retiring facilities like oil-fired power plants. 

HECO said as more renewable projects come online, it will help lower the electric bill and eventually set a fixed rate. 

“What we’re actually going for is stability so right now our prices are largely tied to fossil fuel, and so customers’ bills might go up and down on a monthly basis,” Matsushima said. “It’s very hard for customers to plan their budgets for the month but once we have all of our new projects on they are fixed rates, so we’re paying the same rate every month.”

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The KES facility is set to begin operating in May 2023.