HAWAIIAN OCEAN VIEW ESTATES – Residents living in Hawaiian Ranchos and Ocean View Estates subdivisions spoke out against a massive solar photovoltaic project on Monday night during a Hawaii Public Utilty Commission hearing.
The hearing, held at the Ocean View Community Center and conducted by PUC chair Randy Iwase, was focused on just one aspect of the project: a permanent overhead 69kV transmission line planned for the residential area (docket number 2015-0229). The above ground line, which will run on the Mamalahoa Highway to the new Ocean View Substation, will handle 27 Feed-in-Tariff (“FIT”) solar photovoltaic installations that are being constructed on Ranchos housing lots, much to the consternation of residents who say the project does not belong in their neighborhood.
The project is being developed by California-based subsidiary Calwaii Power Holdings LLC and is backed by Chinese company SPI Solar.
According to the Hawaiian Rancho’s Homeowners Association, the developers plan to install over 30,000 solar panels on lots within Hawaiian Ocean View Ranchos, Kula Kai View Estates and Kona South Estates (currently undeveloped between Ranchos and Kula Kai View Estates) located in Kau District. Eighteen lots, a total of 54 acres, are within the Ranchos subdivision alone.
The Hawaii Electric Light Company says that during peak production, the FIT companies could produce up to 6.75 MW of energy, more than 700% of the daytime load, and the excess energy will need to be exported to the transmission system. HELCO says the existing Kapua substation that serves Ocean View does not have enough capacity to allow interconnection of these projects, therefore the new substation is necessary.
Opponents say the companies are exploiting a loophole in the law that allows renewable energy projects on agricultural land. They say the unforeseen consequence of this law will led to the industrialization of their residential neighborhood, which is zoned agricultural.
During the hearing, PUC chair Iwase tried to keep testifiers focused on the transmission line, which is the aspect of the solar project that triggered the hearing, but many residents went on to blast the project and its developers. Only one speaker spoke in support of the project.