Kauai coop board approves funding to move Puu Opae pumped storage forward

The board of directors of the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative has approved several items that will move the proposed Puu Opae pumped-storage project to fruition.

Earlier this week, the board approved expenditures of up to $350,000 for preliminary surveying, engineering and permitting work.

KIUC reports it has already commenced work on required diversion modifications and installation of gauging equipment.

This project will use the Puu Opae upper reservoir connected by a 5-mile-long buried steel pipeline to the Mana reservoir. During the day, solar power would be used to pump the water uphill. The facility could have a capacity up to 25 MW, according to a press release. KIUC has previously said this facility may one day supply 10% of the island’s electricity.

KIUC has a goal of using renewable resources to generate 50% of Kauai’s power by 2023. The company owns five hydroelectric projects that provide 7.5% of the island’s electricity, and a 6-MW project is in the permitting process and expected to come online by 2019.

The board approved the land lease and associated agreements with the Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) and Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) in August. The settlement agreement for the project was approved by the Commission on Water Resources Management in April 2017.

KIUC says that if the project completes development and is constructed, the coop will invest millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements and ongoing maintenance on lands owned by state agencies. Improvements include the rehabilitation of four reservoirs, repair and maintenance of a ditch system, installation of a pressurized pipeline delivering water from the ditch system to DHHL lands, and improved roads.

“This partnership enables the state to provide proper stewardship for the river, while expanding agriculture, energy production and residential development on the west side,” said KIUC Board Chair Allan Smith.

The Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) of Hawaii authorized its executive director to negotiate terms with KIUC for development of the project in December 2016. At this time, the generating capacity was reported to be 8.3 MW.

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