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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Solar thermal advantages cited

By Coco Zickos
Garden Island

KEKAHA, Kaua'i Should a hurricane knock out the power generated by Kaua'i Island Utility Cooperative on the west side, Pacific Light & Power's proposed concentrated solar thermal facility between Kekaha and Waimea would be able to provide 8,000 single-family homes on the sunny side of the island with their daytime electrical needs.

"In the case of emergency, our solar plant would power the west side," said the company's CEO, Dick Roth.

Normally, the solar farm would generate power through KIUC's transmission grid high power lines, which would then be transmitted to the distribution grid through wires bringing electricity into people's homes, he said.

"If negotiations go as planned, the project will be connected to KIUC's transmission systems that supply the entire island," said KIUC spokeswoman Anne Barnes.

The plant would be able to generate roughly 6 percent of the island's annual electrical needs, she said.

But if there is a break between PL&P's plant and KIUC's Port Allen facility, only a small on-site generator would be needed to kick the solar farm into gear, directly supplying electricity to homes in the neighborhood.

Roth answered several questions Friday that community members have put forth since his company announced last month that it had signed a long-term lease for a 10-megawatt concentrated solar thermal power plant on some 100 acres of subpar farmland.

"They listened well and are really interested in benefiting the community," said Kekaha resident and community activist Bruce Pleas, regarding the small team that comprises the local renewable energy company.

People will be able to see the multiple rows of mirrored troughs collecting sunshine in the beginning, "but as years go on, even people with two-story houses" will not be able to see anything after the expected landscaping grows in, he said.