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Soaking Up the Sun

Waikoloa Solar + Storage Project beams a cleaner future

Carefully positioned in neat rows in the foothills above Waikoloa Village – seven miles mauka of Waikoloa Beach Resort — 94,000 solar panels and 26 battery energy storage containers strategically soak up the sun. Spanning 300 acres, they are the key components of AES Hawai`i’s Waikoloa Solar + Storage Project — Hawai`i Island’s largest solar and battery storage endeavor. In late April, this new project became fully operational.

(Above: Standard University students tour the solar project. Below: The 300-acre project has been underway in Waikoloa Village for four-and-a-half years.)

Four-and-a-half-years in the making, the project was created by AES Hawai`i in a partnership with Hawaiian Electric. The clean energy generated by Waikoloa Solar + Storage goes straight to Hawaiian Electric’s Hawai`i Island grid, meaning everyone connected to the grid receives energy from the project, including residents, visitors, hotels and businesses at Waikoloa Beach Resort.

According to Hawaiian Electric Company, the project also provided around 200 jobs to the island, with a total economic output of $47 million toward Hawai`i’s economy.

“Our entire team at AES Hawai`i is proud to be bringing the largest renewable energy project to the Big Island this spring, as our Waikoloa Solar + Storage facility will deliver 42 megawatts of clean, renewable power to the Big Island backed by a 120-megawatt-hour battery energy storage system,” says Sandra Larsen, AES Hawai`i’s Market Business Leader. “That’s enough energy to provide electricity for nearly 14,000 homes and will go a long way toward helping the Big Island be more energy self-sufficient and less reliant on imported fossil fuels.”

Waikoloa Solar + Storage produces enough clean energy to replace the use of more than 511,000 barrels of oil over its 25-year lifespan. It will also reduce the amount of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that are generated by the use of fossil fuels.

“It’s critically important to the health of our environment and the future of our children that we implement clean energy solutions to fulfill our daily needs for electricity,” Larsen explains.

“AES Hawai`i is fully committed to helping our state achieve its goal for a clean energy future, and the start of the Waikoloa Solar + Storage is a great example of how we are doing our part to make that a reality.”

AES Hawai`i also partners with its close neighbor, the nonprofit Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative. This past January, employees helped plant four types of native trees — ‘a‘ali‘i, ‘āweoweo, ohe makai and wiliwili — on Dry Forest land next to the project. AES Hawai`i has also adopted an acre of the forest, is planting 300 native trees, making a donation to the organization and supporting educational programs that teach school students about the importance of reforestation and protecting the environment on Hawai`i Island.

“The Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative’s mission to preserve Hawai`i Island’s native trees is admirable,” Larsen says. “Their goal embodies AES Hawai`i’s commitment to a greener energy future and our goal to protect the environment for future generations. It’s an honor to support this impactful organization and contribute to its consequential work in reforestation and preservation of natural resources.”

AES has been working to provide low-cost energy to Hawai`i since 1991 as a partner with Hawaiian Electric and other utilities. AES Hawai`i supports the state’s vision of a 100 percent renewable energy future by 2045, and has nine renewable projects currently in operation or under development statewide to accelerate Hawai`i’s transition to a carbon-free energy future.

Hawai`i is the nation’s most dependent state on imported fossil fuels, making its clean energy targets all the more critical for supporting the state’s economy, the environment and energy security.

“The long-term challenge we face is building out the renewable energy infrastructure quickly enough to meet Hawai`i’s 2045 carbon-free goal. The need for renewable energy is real and we need to work together to understand how it can be incorporated into our communities,” Larsen says. “Making the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy has been talked about for years, but the time is now. Hawai`i, like the rest of the world, has been impacted by climate change and other forces beyond our control, including the supply chain delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and escalating energy prices because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. AES stands ready to help Hawai`i meet these challenges and continue on the path toward a cleaner energy future.”

Governor Josh Green, AES and Hawaiian Electric executives, and state and county lawmakers will celebrate the grand opening of Waikoloa Solar + Storage in May.

Making a Splash in the Eco Industry

At Queens’ Marketplace’s newest boutique store, Coconut Ave, owners Mahea Gambill and Kelly Pila have set themselves apart by featuring eco-friendly merchandise. Three Hawaiian swimsuit collections they create each year comprise a large part of their merchandise, all made from recycled plastic bottles and prints using eco-friendly dyes. “Sustainable fabric options have become more readily available than ever and we are so excited to jump on board the eco train!” said Mahea, who graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles. “Kelly and I have always tried to lead a minimal-waste lifestyle so this was the perfect opportunity to create a brand that reflects our values.” Their newest styles are featured in the Guava Jam Spring to Summer swimsuit collection. “We purchase fabric made from recycled plastic bottles instead of virgin polyester,” Mahea explained. The men’s section features the Vissla and Western Aloha brands, in addition to a separate plastic-free home and body care products section. “We try to bring is as many sustainable products as possible with a mix of local brands, and just some really fun products,” Mahea added.

Waikoloa Cultural MapWaikoloa Beach Resort’s New Cultural Brochure

To learn more about the area’s rich history and culture, chose from five scenic walking tours throughout Waikoloa Beach Resort. For more information on the tours, visit the brochure webpage.

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