‘Blowing Through Milestones’: Hawaiian Electric Picks Winners in Solar-Storage Bonanza

Hawaiian Electric this week selected 16 winning solar-storage and standalone battery projects totaling 460 megawatts of solar capacity and nearly 3 gigawatt-hours of storage, as the utility moves to close fossil fuel plants in the state.

Among the chosen developers are Canada's Innergex Renewable Energy and Hawaiian Electric (HECO) itself. It's the largest renewables procurement in Hawaii's aggressive history with clean energy, as the state moves toward a  100 percent clean energy by 2045 goal . HECO is now in contract negotiations with the winning third-party developers.

HECO is the second utility to announce a multi-gigawatt-hour battery procurement this month alone, noted Daniel Finn-Foley, head of energy storage for Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. Earlier this month Southern California Edison selected seven projects adding  up to 770 megawatts  of four-hour duration battery systems meant to be completed by August 2021. 

“The utility energy storage market is blowing through milestones faster than we can report them,” Finn-Foley said. “In 2016 or 2017 a 30-megawatt system made news. In 2018 and 2019 procurements of hundreds of megawatts made way for gigawatt-hour-scale plans.” 

This week's announcement from HECO is the latest step in a  request for proposals issued in August , aimed at securing a mix of generation and grid services for the islands of O‘ahu, Maui and Hawai‘i.

The RFP comes with a far more complex set of requirements than the big renewable and storage procurements  announced elsewhere in the U.S.  in recent months, as well as the requirements of HECO's own previous procurement of 262 megawatts of solar and 1,048 megawatt-hours of storage in early 2019 . 

That’s because this RFP is meant to help HECO replace two central power plants: the 203-megawatt AES Hawaii coal-fired power plant on Oahu, set to close by 2022, and the 212-megawatt Kahului oil-fired power plant on Maui, set to close by 2024. To replace those plants’ role in providing energy, capacity and grid stability,  HECO sought a mix  of standalone energy storage available for round-the-clock grid capacity, and "dispatchable" renewables power-purchase agreements.

The list of winners includes:

On O'ahu, eight solar-plus-storage projects and a single standalone storage system, totaling about 287 megawatts of generation and 1.8 gigawatt-hours of storage. 
On Maui, three solar-plus-storage projects and one standalone storage system, for a combined 100 megawatts of generation and 560 megwatt-hours of storage.
On Hawai'i Island, two solar-plus-storage projects and one standalone storage system , adding up to about 72 megawatts of generation and 492 megawatt-hours of storage. 

Two of the winning projects will be standalone battery systems  built by HECO itself  — a 40-megawatt/160 megawatt-hour system on Maui and a 12-megawatt/12 megawatt-hour system on...