Solar power project in Ocean View is opposed by local residents

by Debbie Ward

In 2011, the Feed in Tariff (FIT) program was initiated to provide farmers and ranchers an opportunity to initiate solar projects, and offered high rates to produce solar power that were competitive with fossil fuel power production. In the twelve ensuing years, the cost of solar power is now dramatically lower than that of fossil fuel; currently rated at 8-9 cents per kilowatt hour.  Back in 2011, Solar Hub Utilities applied for 26 slots in the FIT program, exceeding the permitted power output allowed under the program. Nevertheless, HECO approved the applications, although they were submitted by a single applicant. Residents in the Ranchos and Kula Kai subdivision in Ocean View on the Big Island were shocked to find that individual residential lots were being purchased to house the solar facilities, and that due to the large number of applications, that HECO would have to build a substation on community property to transmit the power to more populated areas, such as Kona. They were also shocked to learn that the ratepayers would be required to pay three times the going solar rate for the FIT solar produced for the thirty-year lifetime of the projects. Ann and Peter Bosted, who own a home in Ranchos directly adjacent to one of the proposed facilities, sought a contested case before the Public Utilities Commission, and in June, the hearing was conducted. The only issue that the PUC allowed for consideration is whether the 26 FIT projects are to be considered individually or in aggregate, and whether they should be considered in the FIT program or in the Competitive Bidding Framework.  If in the aggregate, the 6.5 MW projects would exceed the 2.72 MW allowed under the FIT program, and would require that they be competitively bid. Following a recommendation by the hearing officer, the PUC will make a determination later this year.

Leave a Comment