Hawaiian Electric eyeing new solar, wind projects

Audrey Mcavoy, Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) -- Hawaiian Electric Co. said Wednesday it has asked the Public Utilities Commission for the authority to negotiate five new solar and wind power contracts.

The utility says the projects would charge an average of one-third less for electricity than what Hawaiian Electric now pays for power generated from oil, solar and wind.

The five projects were selected from 20 proposals the utility received after issuing a call in February for low-cost renewable energy. The utility selected the five based on price, site control, development experience and other criteria.

Scott Seu, Hawaiian Electric's vice president for energy resources and operations, said the strong response to the call demonstrates there's a high level of competition for renewable energy.

"These projects represent an important first step as we are starting to see lower market prices for renewable energy," Seu said.

The utility may not disclose the names of the companies or groups that would operate the five projects because the specifics are proprietary, Hawaiian Electric spokesman Darren Pai said.

Hawaiian Electric normally must put larger power generation contracts out for competitive bid. It's asking the PUC for permission to bypass the bid process to help it buy energy from renewable resources more quickly.

The utility aims to have the projects in service by the end of 2015.

The five projects would have a combined capacity of 64 megawatts. The utility plans on negotiating 20-year contracts with each project.

Hawaiian Electric would submit each contract to the utilities commission for review and approval.