The Hawaiian island of Kauai has long been known for its early adoption of renewable energy generation. Rich in natural resources, the island is a haven of harmony for wind, solar, and hydroelectric energy. However, solar became the dominant power generation source on Kauai. As a result, the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative is able to power nearly the entire island on renewables at mid-day. The problem? A basic lack of energy storage devices.
As the largest challenge that the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative faces, the ability to store enough energy to power the island throughout the night remains. Adding more solar panels would have no impact without more energy storage, and these solutions can be expensive at-scale. This begs the question, what is the solution? Could it be to blend solar with hydroelectric power and couple that with battery storage systems?
To put it shortly, yes. Kauai has already partnered with AES Corp to refurbish 3 existing reservoirs on the island and construct 2 hydroelectric generators, with generating capacities of 4 and 20MW. Large solar arrays will be placed in the lowlands to charge the battery systems and power the water pumps during the day. When the sun sets, the battery system powers the water pumps, and the hydroelectric generators power most of the island. Once completed, Kauai will be powered by around 80 percent renewable energy. However, the island has trouble importing and exporting energy, even to neighboring islands. With Hawaii’s goal to be 100 percent renewable by 2050, each island will have to adopt its own forms of renewable energy generation.
So, how will Kauai make up for that final 20 percent? The island has already tapped a large portion of its renewable resources and can’t necessarily rely on the other islands to meet the energy demand. However, with limited space, the population of the island should remain consistent, hopefully keeping energy demand relatively constant as well. Advanced energy storage solutions will become essential no doubt, but will not be able to account for everything. I am left with only one viable option in mind; offshore wind power. While fairly controversial, especially in a tourism-oriented state like Hawaii reliant on beautiful landscapes, wind turbines may become a necessity for a fully renewable future in Hawaii.