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Frequently Asked Questions

Project

What is the project being proposed?

Kūpono Solar will be developed by Bright Canyon Energy, which proposes to construct, own and operate this facility. The facility will consist of 42 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) generation capacity paired with a 42-MW, four-hour battery energy storage system. When approved, Kūpono Solar will deliver sustainable, renewable energy to Hawaiian Electric Company’s Oʻahu grid for 20 years.

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Technology

What kind of solar technology will you be using?

The solar panels are similar to the ones that are used on residential rooftops. While we have not chosen the manufacturer yet, it will be carefully vetted with criteria such as quality, efficiency and output. The manufacturer also must meet financial stability criteria. As a company whose roots go back more than 130 years, we will partner with companies who have a reliable and financially stable history.

The solar arrays will be mounted on a single-axis tracking system that will follow the sun to increase generation potential. The panel heights will range from three to six feet.

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What kind of battery storage technology will you be using?

A state-of-the-art battery energy storage system will be configured to deliver four hours of energy storage. Lithium-ion batteries will allow energy generated during the day to be stored and utilized at other times, such as after sunset or when Hawaiian Electric needs it most to serve customers.

Hawaiian Electric will have direct control of the facilities and will use the solar and the battery system to power the grid. It will utilize these resources to provide reliable generation to meet customer demand.

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As technology improves and costs go down, shouldn’t we wait to install this project?

Today’s electricity prices are already high and volatile because of fluctuations in the price of oil and the importation of coal for Oʻahu. Not only will the solar farm provide price stability, it will also provide an economic boost to the area due to local short- and long-term employment, supplies and materials purchased, and local businesses being supported.

The additional benefit is energy security, with the renewable fuel not dependent on the production or processing of oil or other fossil fuels.

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Timeline

What is life cycle of project?

The project agreement will be for a period of 20 years.

After its useful life, all equipment will be dismantled, recycled or disposed of off island and the land restored to its original surrounding condition. During the contract period, the developer will be responsible to replace any parts that may need repair.

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What is the project timeline?

The project has been selected by Hawaiian Electric to continue development and community outreach. The next steps will include negotiating a Power Purchase Agreement with the utility, approval by the Hawaiʻi Public Utilities Commission, conducting environmental and cultural resource studies, permitting, constructing and testing the facility. The project is slated to be completed in 2022.

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Location

What is the facility footprint? How many acres will be used?

The Navy has conducted an Environmental Assessment on approximately 220 acres of underutilized land at the West Loch Annex of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Subject to an anticipated outlease of this site by the Navy, the proposed project would occupy approximately 160 acres of this site.

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Why was this site chosen?

A renewable energy project must be cost-effective for the utility customers. In order to be viable, the site must have an extremely high solar resource, be close to utility switching stations or transmission lines, on land that is available and able to pass permitting and cultural resource permitting approvals.

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Safety

What safety measures will you put in place for the system?

The proposed battery systems are designed for utility-scale, commercial use. Proven and reliable lithium-ion batteries will be placed in temperature-controlled, fully monitored self-contained units. Each battery cell is individually monitored and can be disconnected from the other batteries if necessary. Each container unit will have fire suppression systems. Each battery supplier has completed a full-scale hazard assessment of its battery system to certify compliance with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) guidelines. Manufacturers must comply with strict design and testing standards. These include outdoor use and, in any environment, such as rain, humidity, dust or sea spray, for their lifetime. Additionally, the containers will sit on concrete pads. The project will comply with local fire safety regulations, will employ best practices and comply with local and national codes for elements such as vegetation management and fire breaks. We will work with fire authorities and take all precautionary measures they recommend.

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Is the project built to withstand high winds and flooding conditions?

Kūpono Solar will be built to county code requirements and comply with all standards, including the ASCE 7-10 Risk Category I standards. The panels will be mounted on tracking systems, designed to reduce their exposure to winds. The system will be mounted on foundations that maybe drilled, driven, or cast in place with concrete depending on soil conditions. The project site is located in the safe zone outside of the tsunami evacuation zone and extreme tsunami evacuation zones.

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Will the solar panels create glare?

Solar panels are designed to absorb rather than reflect light. They are generally dark blue / black in color and use a non-reflective glass coating to reduce glare. They look like the PV panels found on many residential rooftops.

Environmental studies will include compliance to FAA glare standards. It is important to note that solar panels are installed at numerous airports, including Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, as well as at military airfields.

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The permits indicate there will be an Explosives Safety – Quantity Distance Review. Is there danger of unexploded ordinances being set off?

This permit is listed as a precautionary measure. If required, the Department of Defense Explosives Safety Board will review historical use of the site locations and be available should any unexploded ordinance be discovered.

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Cost of Electricity

How will electric rates be affected by Kūpono Solar?

Hawaiʻi has the most expensive electricity prices in the United States, greatly affected by the price of imported fossil fuel. Fuel prices can also vary significantly due to world events. While current oil prices have dropped, they historically have increased to record highs.

Kūpono Solar will provide stable, low prices to Hawaiian Electric, which are directly passed through to utility customers. The electric bill also consists of costs the utility is authorized to recover, for instance, maintaining or upgrading the energy grid. The Hawaiʻi Public Utilities Commission ultimately approves the rates that Hawaiian Electric applies for in its rate case.

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Decommissioning

How will the project be decommissioned?

After the project’s useful life, all components associated with the project will be removed, and the area will be restored to the original site conditions.

Decommissioning includes attention to surrounding factors to minimize effects such as erosion during the removal process. All materials will be removed, and the equipment will be reused, recycled or disposed of off island.

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Environment and Cultural Resource

What permitting requirements will the project be subject to?

The project is proposed on Navy land, and the Navy will facilitate the necessary National Environmental Policy Act permitting requirements. We will utilize a qualified, third-party consulting firm that has experience in Hawaiʻi and federal processes to ensure strict adherence to all permits and environmental and cultural resource studies are completed.

The public will be informed of any required publication of studies and any opportunity to comment as part of that process.

Impacts to biological resources or cultural resources are not anticipated, as no sensitive resources are expected to be present within the proposed project area.

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Visual

What are you doing to properly assess the extent of the visual impact?

Kūpono Solar is working with an independent environmental consultant to conduct a visual impact analysis to determine visual impacts to surrounding communities. The simulations will present a simulated rendering of the project to offer a better understanding of what the proposed project will look like from various viewpoints.

Visual simulations will be available on the website and at community outreach meetings once completed.

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What are you planning to do to mitigate visual impacts of the project to the surrounding area?

Bright Canyon Energy plans to use fences or landscaping to reduce visual impacts if needed.

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Construction

Will the project use licensed contractors?

Bright Canyon Energy is committed to using licensed contractors that adhere to prevailing wages. We will work with contractors who prioritize hiring qualified local labor.

Supplies and material will be sourced in-state when available.

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How will the community be informed of construction activities and any impacts?

There will be a short construction window, thus we don’t anticipate significant impacts on the community. Supplies and equipment will not require any specialized transportation or infrastructure. During construction, should there be any potential impacts to the community such as traffic-related issues, we will provide community alerts via our website (under News), media, local community leaders, neighborhood communication tools, newsletters and the Department of Transportation alerts.

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Will construction activity create other impacts?

Besides adhering to all regulations, we will also adhere to noise-level codes and mitigate run-off or erosion issues.

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Solar Rooftop

Will this project allow more solar rooftop to be built?

The PV system will charge the battery system during the day. The project will feed into the utility grid on a 46-kV line, not the distribution circuits that the residential homes use.

The utility company controls the ability to put more rooftop solar on the grid.

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Benefits

What are the benefits to our state?

This sustainable energy project contributes to the state’s achievement of its goals of 100% renewable electricity and carbon neutrality by 2045.

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What are the benefits to our surrounding community?

In addition to providing a levelized cost of energy and stabilizing the local energy grid, this project will help eliminate the need to purchase imported fossil fuel. Local construction jobs, consulting work and long-term employment will be created. This activity, and purchasing of local supplies and materials, will generate an economic boost to local businesses and will generate a multiplier effect for the economy.

Bright Canyon Energy is committed to identifying, through stakeholder input, impactful ways to benefit the local community with support in areas such as community organizations, charities, Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) education and youth sports.

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Community

How can I learn more about the project?

Visit the website kuponosolar.com for details. Write us at kuponosolar@brightcanyonenergy.com.

We will provide the community project details at project-specific meetings, which will be virtual until it is safe to gather. We attend scheduled community meetings and would like to meet with associations, organizations and individuals. Meeting opportunities will be published on our website and use local communication outlets.

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How can I ask questions, provide comments, feedback or express my support of the project?

We welcome your comments during the exploration of the development of the project. You may provide us feedback via the website, email us or participate in our project meetings.

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Will my comments be heard?

We are committed to work closely with the community, to listen to your questions and suggestions, and to clarify, mitigate, and alleviate impacts as much as possible. We will work with all stakeholders to ensure that Kūpono Solar is a respectful neighbor.

There will be formal comment periods open prior to and during the project’s application to the Hawaiʻi Public Utilities Commission and its consideration process of the Power Purchase Agreement with Hawaiian Electric. These periods will enable you to provide formal feedback, and if desired, will be filed with the Hawaiʻi Public Utilities Commission.

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