Hawaii Is Replacing Its Last Coal Plant With A ‘Giant Battery’ - Powered By Oil

The revelation that the Kapolei Energy Storage Facility will be powered with oil caused an uproar at a recent meeting, but the project is slated to continue.

In 2015, Hawaii made history, becoming the first US state to mandate a full transition to renewable energy. The legislation, signed into law by Gov. David Ige, mandated that state utilities generate 100 percent of electricity sales from renewable fuels by 2045.

Green energy publications noted that the move positioned Hawaii as “a pioneer in the quest to move toward a future free of fossil fuels.” But some also offered a warning.

“Promises are easy to make,” noted GreenBiz, a media company focused on renewable energy. “Achieving them is another story.”

Leaders in the Aloha State are learning this the hard way.

Image Credit: Flickr-Tony Webster | CC BY 2.0

‘Going from Cigarettes to Crack’

In May, news broke that the state’s largest supplier of electricity, Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO), was considering pulling the plug on development of a key new energy storage system.

The Kapolei Energy Storage Facility—basically an enormous battery—is being built to ensure a stable supply of electricity to the island of Oahu, which is preparing for the retirement of the AES coal plant—Hawaii’s last coal-fired power plant—which produces 15-20 percent of the island’s electricity.

The 185-megawatt storage facility was intended to make up for the loss of the 180 megawatt AES plant, which was no longer a viable option because of a recent ban on coal. But renewable energy projects have been beset by a number of problems, including delays in renewable projects.

One concern, as Pacific Business News reported in March, is that these delays “will leave Oahu with a very tight fuel reserve margin, opening up the possibility of rolling blackouts in the event of failure.”

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