Building a solar farm is becoming dramatically more expensive, prompting a developer to pull out of a pair of renewable energy projects on Maui and Oahu that would have helped stabilize electricity bills while aiding Hawaii’s green energy transition.
The collapse of Longroad Energy’s proposed 370-acre Pulehu Solar project in Kula and 600-acre Mahi Solar project in Kunia exposes the struggle renewable developers are facing to deliver projects on time and on budget amid unusual supply chain problems, soaring shipping freight rates and rising equipment costs.
Some developers in Hawaii Solar Tracking Controller, have responded to these mounting market pressures by demanding higher prices for the electricity their planned projects would generate.
The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approved such requests this month for Maui’s Pulehu Solar project and AES’ 80-acre solar project in West Oahu. But in the case of Pulehu Solar, even PUC approval for a requested price increase did not offer the developer enough relief to continue the project.
“The projects just aren’t feasible, even at the amended pricing, and it’s just a very tough situation for everyone involved,” said Wren Wescoatt, director of development at Longroad Energy NMRV Series Worm Gear Reducer. “The market has changed more quickly and more dramatically even than anyone has experience with. So I think everybody is really in a bit of uncharted territory.”
The Pulehu Solar project would Solar Damper have helped address a new potential crisis posed by the unexpected shutdown of a Japanese parts supplier that appears to be the sole manufacturer of spare parts required to keep four oil-burning Mitsubishi generators running at Maui’s Maalaea power plant.
Moving renewable energy projects like Pulehu Solar on line quickly is now part of a contingency plan to fortify Maui’s electricity grid in the event that the four Maalaea engines, which the utility had planned to run into the 2030s, must be shut down.
With enough electricity to power the equivalent of some 37,000 homes, Solar project DC motor Mahi Solar would have been important for Oahu, which relies on a coal-burning plant at Barbers Point to meet about 20% of the island’s electricity demand. The coal plant’s scheduled September Planetary gear motor, shutdown depends on having new projects like Mahi Solar on line to minimize the risk of blackouts when it’s no longer operatin
The projects have been on hold since February, when Hawaiian Electric Co. and Longroad Solar tracker actuator submitted to the PUC a pair of requests to amend power purchase agreements forged in 2020 to accommodate rising costs of equipment like solar panels.
The price for building solar panels increased 57% in 2021, according to a report from consultant Rystad Energy.