KIUC hydroelectric project for West Kaua’i still in planning phase : Kauai Now : Kauai News & Information

Amanda Kurt

For nearly a decade, the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative, or KIUC, has worked to develop a hybrid solar and hydroelectric power system that is expected to meet the island’s energy needs for centuries to come. come.

One such development is the West Kaua’i Energy Project, or WKEP, a hydroelectric project that will be located northwest of Waimea and Kekaha. KIUC officials say it will be the first of its kind in the world. While still in the planning stages, the co-op is working with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to secure affordable property leases for residential, agricultural, or pastoral purposes, and support for homesteading activities, including l expansion of agricultural land.

Courtesy of KIUC

Historically, Kaua’i has had some of the highest electricity rates in the country. However, with WKEP’s renewable energy potential, KIUC communications manager Beth Tokioka agreed that this project will cover 25% of Kaua’i’s electricity needs, gradually reducing electricity rates for customers.

The current energy project design would be capable of delivering 240 megawatt hours of stored energy daily and would allow KIUC to replace fossil fuel generation with renewable energy throughout the evening. The large storage capacity also allows KIUC to use this electricity over a period of several days in the event of an emergency or prolonged periods of no sunlight.

KIUC has been in talks with community and state officials about the project for several years. According to the 2017 Cooperative Beneficiary Consultation, the hydroelectric project will benefit DHHL and its beneficiaries by bringing water to Kaua’i Trust’s western lands. The water will service existing pastoral lots and allow for the future development of new farm lots.

DHHL spokesman Cedric Duarte said he was aware there were community talk sessions hosted by KIUC regarding the project in 2021.

“Communication with grantees has slowed during the pandemic, but since the reopening of COVID restrictions, we have stayed in touch with our grantees about this effort and how the proposed project will benefit them and future homeownership opportunities. “Duarte told Kaua’i Now in an email.

KIUC, which operates as a not-for-profit organization, was established in 2002 after Citizens Utilities announced its intention to divest from the electric utility business. The co-op is one of the nation’s newest power companies that ushered in an era of renewable energy with the Applied Energy Services Corporation, or AES, an energy consulting firm established in 1980.

Although several attempts to contact AES have failed, their website states: “AES is deeply rooted in local culture and customs. We invest in our communities in a way that works best for them. We learn, grow, develop and share the experiences we have to bring innovation from market to market, together changing the future of energy.

“With the availability of solar power and making it more accessible, KIUC would pay AES $8.9 million per year for the hydroelectric component, and a fixed amount of $71.60 per megawatt-hour for the solar component. , or an annual average of $150 per megawatt-hour,” Tokioka said.

KIUC estimates savings of $157-172 million for itself and its customers by not using diesel fuel.

Tokioka confirmed to Kaua’i Now that last year’s cost projections for WKEP remain the same.

When Kaua’i Now asked Westside residents if the partnership between WKEP and AES would benefit the community in any way, some were quick to respond.

“The benefits are huge: clean energy and a western lake for ducks and shorebirds,” said Gordon LaBedz, a retired family physician and conservationist who works closely with the Kaua’i Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. “However, the Surfrider Foundation neither supports nor opposes the project. The problems are also dramatic: the drying up of the streams that feed the already depleted Waimea River and the stream system (ditches) on the west side.

LaBedz said he was worried about the Westside project because KIUC had contracted it out to AES, adding that the co-op needed to beef up its battery system and get rid of oil.

“KIUC has burned forests for electricity and also burns oil,” LaBedz continued, noting, “…they have quite a bit of non-renewable, dirty energy that can stabilize their power grid.”

Despite his concerns, LaBedz said KIUC has done a great job engaging the community.

Kaua’i County has already met the state’s renewable benchmark for 2040, nearly two decades ahead of the KIUC board’s strategic goal, and in the past two months the co-op has had the rates lowest electricity bills in the state of Hawai’i for the first time since 2002.

And while Kauai’s high renewable percentages indicate the impacts of soaring oil prices on its members’ rates, KIUC’s goal is to have WKEP operational by the end of 2025.

KIUC will use an existing planting ditch and rehabilitate three reservoirs from Kōkeʻe in Mānā to Puʻu Lua Reservoir, storing them and discharging them to a power station at Puʻu ʻŌpae Reservoir.

“For many projects, there are concerns about the responsible use of state water resources,” Tokioka said, adding, “For this project, which has been mediated with a number of parties and resulted in the Waimea Mediation Agreement, which outlines how much water can be diverted for WKEP and for what purpose.”

To learn more about WKEP, installing or upgrading a solar/PV system, or downsizing a new or existing project, visit the KIUC website at, or call 808 -246-4300.

WKEP-ProjectFacilitiesDiagram by Tiffany De Masters on Scribd


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