Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) Maps: You know your community best

Hawaiian Electric
4 min readNov 28, 2022

by Hawaii Powered | Nov. 28, 2022

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As we continue to work toward powering our island grids with 100% renewable energy by 2045, we’ll need more renewable energy projects both at the community and large-scale grid levels. To help identify potential locations for these projects on Oahu, Hawaii Island and Maui — we are seeking your valued insight and input on our recently created Renewable Energy Zone maps!

What is a Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) and how was it developed?

Each renewable energy project requires different technical conditions. For example, grid-scale solar facilities generally require flat, open terrain that receives consistent sunshine. At the same time, we recognize with limited space across our islands, we must balance land use priorities as we move forward with more renewable energy projects to power our islands. Finding the right balance between engineering, technical conditions, community insights and customers preferences will take communication and collaboration. Protecting cultural resources, the environment and meeting various needs for communities, affordable housing, agriculture, industries, energy, and more will require creative land use solutions.

To better identify areas with the right technical conditions and land use priorities for future renewable energy projects, Hawaiian Electric partnered with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. This partnership resulted in data-driven maps showing potential “Renewable Energy Zones” on Maui, Oahu and Hawaii Island, representing where future clean energy projects could potentially be located. Read the entire report here.

The preliminary Renewable Energy Zones took wind and sun coverage, steepness of slopes, financial costs, access to existing corridor and grid connections, as well as land use and zoning into consideration to indicate best possible areas for energy projects. Other areas were excluded as potential locations based on the type of land. This included federal lands, state parks, wetlands, lava and flood/tsunami zones, and Important Agricultural Lands.

We are now seeking your input to further refine the identified Renewable Energy Zones. We’re gathering public insights from you and others in your community who know these areas the best to understand the potential impacts, land use opportunities and community needs and interests on Maui, Oahu and Hawaii Island. We invite you to share your thoughts through our interactive map tool.

What kind of input do we need?

  1. Opportunities: which areas could be successful sites?
  • Available land/property
  • Access to existing energy grid
  • Vacant building/property
  • Co-location possibilities

2. Challenges: which areas would be most difficult?

  • Steep terrain
  • Sensitive species
  • Cultural sensitivities
  • New or planned construction
  • Recreation
  • Agriculture
Leave a comment here.

FAQs:

What’s happening with clean energy planning on Lanai and Molokai?Much of our grid planning work on Lanai is happening in collaboration with the majority landowner on the island. Hawaiian Electric is seeking a developer to build and maintain the largest renewable energy project and the first to offer the shared solar program on the island. We look forward to adding more renewables on Lanai to move forward with the transition to clean energy.

On Molokai, the island is currently preparing a Molokai Community Energy Resilience Action Plan (CERAP): an independent, island-wide, community-led and expert-informed collaborative planning process to increase renewable energy on Molokai. The CERAP is being coordinated by the Molokai Clean Energy Hui by Sustainable Molokai. The Hawaiian Electric team is excited to provide technical support to the Molokai Clean Energy Hui in their planning process to develop a portfolio of clean energy projects to achieve 100% renewable energy for the island that is feasible, respectful of Molokai’s culture and environment and strongly supported by the community.

Why are the renewable energy zones only based on wind and solar potential?
Hawaiian Electric and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory considered only wind and solar potential when mapping the renewable energy zones because studies show that those two resources are the most cost-effective grid-scale options for generating clean energy within the next ten years. We are also considering other resources and technologies — including geothermal, biomass and hydro-energy — as we plan for a resilient and reliable grid powered by diverse energy sources.

How will Hawaiian Electric use my feedback on the renewable energy zones?
Hawaiian Electric will consider public input and technical studies to refine the renewable energy zones and identify long-term transmission infrastructure needs to move forward within each zone. This information will be used to inform another round of competitive procurements to be issued next year (2023).

Read more about the Renewable Energy Zone study.

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

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Hawaiian Electric

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