Building Resilience in North Kohala

by Hawaii Powered | Aug. 1, 2022

Community Forum in North Kohala

Communities have a vital role as we work together to shape our energy future and build a stronger Hawai‘i. Community input improves projects and benefits residents. One example is the collaboration between Hawaiian Electric and the North Kohala community to build resilience and improve reliability in the area.

North Kohala is served by a 34.5 kV sub-transmission line built in the 1950s. The line spans 24 miles and extends to the Hawi Renewable Development wind farm. It’s a radial line and the only line sending electricity to North Kohala. Annual maintenance work and emergency repairs require power outages that impact all customers in the area.

Over the years, we’ve worked closely with the community to develop a solution that meets the needs of North Kohala and Hawaiian Electric. We connected through town halls, focus groups, roundtable discussions and a community forum. We were invited into homes, businesses, schools and radio stations to talk story about our efforts.

Community focus group discussion

We’re grateful for the many meaningful conversations we had with residents, businesses, landowners, schools, emergency responders, hospital and government and community leaders. We listened, and we learned. Those conversations helped us understand the community’s perspective and concerns. We adapted and modified the options until we found a solution: Rebuild the existing line and create a microgrid supported by a battery energy storage system.

The North Kohala microgrid project would allow us to better serve the community while the existing line is rebuilt and when the line is impacted by planned or unplanned events. The project should lead to fewer outages and shorter outage durations when an outage is necessary. It’s designed specifically to operate as a microgrid to provide service to the community when power can’t be provided by the interconnected island grid. It would be the first utility microgrid based on storage in Hawai‘i, if approved by the Public Utilities Commission.

In October 2021, Hawaiian Electric filed a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) with the Commission for the battery portion of the microgrid. The RFP seeks 5 MW and 22 MWh of standalone energy storage capacity for integration with a microgrid controller system owned and operated by Hawaiian Electric. The project would be located next to our Hawi Substation and completed in November 2024, if approved.

In January 2022, the Commission opened a docket for the North Kohala Microgrid RFP proceeding. We encourage the community to continue to be part of the conversation and provide feedback during the RFP approval and the contract approval stages.

Community engagement and collaboration helped us find a solution that meets the needs of the community and the company. It’s an approach that we value and follow as we shape our energy future, together.

Hawaiian Electric employees and community member at the North Kohala Community Resource Center

Hawai‘i Powered is our vision for using 100% local, clean energy. No matter where you live in the islands, you’ll likely experience changes that come during that transition. Integrated Grid Planning (IGP) brings many people together to build a resilient and reliable grid from local, renewable energy sources with various technologies and scales.

You can help improve the processes and policies that guide renewable energy procurements. We value your input and encourage you to get involved and lend your voice to these important conversations about projects that may impact you.

Let’s collaborate and help our communities thrive.

Learn more about Hawaii Powered and our clean energy future at www.hawaiipowered.com.

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Hawaiian Electric

Hawaiian Electric

Established in 1891, Hawaiian Electric is committed to empowering its customers and communities by providing affordable, reliable, clean and sustainable energy.