Biomass and Solar: A True Economic Comparison
The Honua Ola Bioenergy facility, located in Pepe’ekeo, is 99% complete, and ready to generate clean energy for Hawaii Island using biomass. This “FIRM” source of energy is necessary for Hawaii so that our state can meet the renewable energy mandate while ensuring a stable grid.
The PUC states that solar will cost the residents of Hawaii Island 0.08 to 0.12 cents/kWh, and bioenergy from Honua Ola will cost 0.22 cents/kWh. We’re here to tell you that this estimate does not account for the total cost of solar energy with batteries and ignores fundamental economic limitations.
The Financial Implications of Solar’s Limited Capacity
Intermittent energy sources are non-dispatchable without some type of energy storage system, such as batteries. This limitation results in a widespread misunderstanding of the actual cost of solar energy. Many estimates are based on scenarios in which the solar panels are used at full capacity, which is rarely the case. In fact, there are no solar panels that work at 100% efficiency. This means that solar energy costs could easily double when used in a limited capacity.
Because of this, Solar + Battery is more expensive than Honua Ola’s biomass solution. Even with battery storage maximized, Solar + Battery plants cannot produce enough energy in a day to be available to cover a 24-hour outage. Biomass is “dispatchable” power and can generate as much or as little energy as is required. This is why it is currently the most effective renewable energy replacement for fossil fuels.
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The Importance of Job Creation & Stimulating the Local Economy
Once operational, solar plants generate a minimal amount of long-term employment opportunities. A majority of the jobs created are temporary, as they are only needed during the project’s construction.
Modern, carbon-neutral biomass facilities can infuse money back into the community. Instead of sourcing components from overseas, the Honua Ola Bioenergy facility is sustainably powered by local feedstock. This means job opportunities in forestry, agriculture, and transportation. In addition, Honua Ola is projected to generate yearly tax revenue of $1.8 million once operational.
We want to do everything in our power to eliminate fossil fuels and protect Hawaii’s renewable energy future. Scientists agree that energy diversification is essential to energy security, so we must prioritize an approach that embraces all forms of renewable energy. With these priorities in mind, it should be clear to the Public Utilities Commission that it must reverse its decision and allow Honua Ola to launch operations. If this decision is not reversed, and solar projects continue to be green-lit, Hawaii Island runs the risk of destabilizing the grid.
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Help us spread the word and speak out against the PUC’s decision. Show your support for the workers affected by sharing this message on social media and talking with your family and friends. Let them know how this decision hurts Hawaii born-and-raised employees.