Buildings on Coconut Island

A series of photovoltaic systems are being installed on building rooftops at the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology on Coconut Island.

A power purchase agreement recently signed between the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and San Mateo, California-based solar energy company SolarCity will provide renewable solar energy to the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology on Coconut Island for the next 20 years.

One of the first of its kind in Hawaiʻi, the agreement is expected to provide as much as $2.3 million in energy cost savings to the university over the life of the contract.

“This landmark achievement is a model for how we will proceed in the future,” said UH Mānoa Chancellor Tom Apple. “We have the unique opportunity to draw on the wealth of expertise on our campus, as well as our partners throughout the state, to set an example on what can be done to achieve significant energy savings. We’re making progress toward our goal of having 25 percent of campus-wide energy use supplied by renewable sources by 2020.”

As part of the agreement, SolarCity has begun to install, and will own and maintain, a series of photovoltaic systems on the rooftops of buildings on Coconut Island to provide solar-generated electricity at a discount to utility rates.

UH Mānoa will pay nothing up front and benefit from locking in a below-market electricity rate, significantly easing budgeting uncertainties from fluctuating electricity rates.

The system will consist of solar panels and will have approximately 260 kilowatts (kW) of generation capacity, sufficient to provide an estimated 25 percent of the energy needs of the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology. This percentage is expected to increase as the institute’s infrastructure undergoes efficiency retrofits and energy conservation measures are introduced.

The university’s participation was enabled by financial support from the Center for a Sustainable Future, a non-profit funded by the Edwin W. Pauley Foundation and the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation.

The Center for Smart Building and Community Design of the UH Sea Grant College Program worked in concert with the Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation and Hawaiʻi Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to include the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology site in a larger project for renewable energy adoption throughout the state.

— Adapted from a UH Mānoa news release

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