First Wind Solar Group, which is planning to develop large solar energy farms in Hawaii, says that at two of its sites in Central Oahu where there is enough rainfall to support grazing, it plans to have local ranchers raise sheep in and around the solar panels while the project operates to keep the grass down and provide fresh, locally-raised lamb meat.
“This could enable dual use of our ag land to provide local energy and local agriculture,” Wren Westcoatt, development manager for First Wind’s Hawaii operations, wrote in a letter, obtained by PBN, to a resident who raised the issue of these solar farms taking up massive amounts of agricultural land. “When the project is over, we will be required to remove all equipment and return the land to its previous condition.”
Westcoatt also pointed out the benefits of the projects, including lowering ratepayers’ energy costs, allowing the state to be less dependent on imported oil, as well as them being an investment paying off over time.
“In addition, with utility-scale PV projects that we install, the savings go to people that don’t have their own rooftop systems, like people who rent or who live in apartments,” Westcoatt said. “Everyone on Oahu benefits from the lower cost power of utility-scale systems. Since these projects are obviously much larger than any rooftop, the ground-mounted PV does take up many acres. We have looked for sites that are relatively flat with good sun.”
Earlier this year, First Wind, which has so far only focused on wind-energy projects in Hawaii, dove into solar energy with the unveiling of its first plans to build three separate major solar farms totaling 82 megawatts in Central Oahu.
The projects include the 20-megawatt Mililani South Solar I and the 15-megawatt Mililani South Solar II, which will be located in Mililani, south of Lanikuhana Avenue, and the 47-megawatt Waiawa Solar, which will be located in Waiawa, on the Diamond Head side of the H-2 Freeway.
The three solar projects are expected to save Oahu residents about $200 million on electricity over 20 years through federal tax credits if the projects are completed by 2016.