HONOLULU — The state Public Utilities Commission has put a stop to the construction of a solar farm on Hawaii Island.

The agency suspended the Hawaiian Electric Co.’s application for a needed transmission line for the solar farm, which is made up of 27 separate solar projects. Commission Chairman Randy Iwase said last week’s decision was based on concerns by residents and the state Consumer Advocate about the price of the projects, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/2cKMrV1).

The 6.75-megawatt solar farm’s projects were under a discontinued program called Feed-in-Tariff, or FIT, which was established to incentivize renewable energy on the island. The program, put in place in 2008, credits projects sized between 20 kilowatts and 500 kilowatts approximately 23.8 cents a kilowatt-hour, according to Hawaiian Electric Co.’s website.

Ocean View residents Peter and Ann Bosted filed a complaint with the commission on Aug. 29, alleging the projects misuse zoning laws and circumvent the commission’s competitive bidding process.

“We respectfully urge the (PUC) to conclude that the goals of 2008 Energy Agreement are now out of date, and that these FIT projects should be extinguished,” the Bosteds said in the complaint. “We also respectfully request that the (PUC) revoke the FIT permits as they were issued under false pretenses and are of no public benefit at this time.”

The Bosteds also said they were concerned that Calwaii Hawaii Inc. owns 26 of the 27 projects, about 6.5 megawatts.

Former Consumer Advocate Jeff Ono also voiced concerns that the original compensation rates of the eight-year-old projects are no longer in the public interest because they are not yet finished. The solar farm was initially planned for completion this year.

“The delay in the completion raises questions about whether there is a commitment to finalize the projects, and whether these projects may have originally been an attempt to take advantage of market conditions,” Ono said in a June 29 filing with the PUC.

Iwase said the plans for the solar farm will remain on hold until the concerns are addressed.


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com