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Kauai Island… alluring possibilities

Can the project offer a roadmap towards the use of clean energy?

| | Oct 22, 2017 | 10:11 am
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B Surendar

In a high-profile move, Tesla, in the first quarter of the year, deployed a 13MW solar power system, linked to a 13MW/52MWh Powerpack System, in Kauai Island, Hawaii, which was expected to come online in the second quarter. The project, for the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC), involves the use of approximately 55,000 solar panels and 272 Powerpack units to store the energy generated by the panels. Based on a power-purchase agreement with KIUC, the “solar energy shifting”, utility-scale project will serve over 30,000 customers in the island – Tesla would be selling generated
and stored energy at 11 cents per kWh, which according to Tesla would be significantly cheaper than the cost of power that is generated through burning fossil fuels. According to estimates, the project will be instrumental in replacing the use of over two million gallons a year of diesel with clean energy.

A significant feature of the project is that it is the only one of its kind for the simple reason that it will be powering an entire island during daytime, and beyond – according to current estimates, up to 10pm. This, Tesla says, gives hope and an answer that the project with the prospect of uninterrupted power supply – at least for the hours that matter – can be scaled up to power entire continents. A second is its clean nature, which opens up very interesting possibilities, indeed. Among them, perhaps an answer to the question, ‘How do we balance the need for greater energy-efficiency with the demand for better indoor air quality (IAQ)?’

About a year ago, delegates at the World Indoor Environmental Quality Forum, in Dubai, saw an interesting debate unfold on whether the pursuit of greater energy efficiency was at the cost of IAQ. Tighter insulation profiles and fewer fresh air changes, the IAQ camp argued, were putting paid to efforts to ensure healthier buildings. They called for many more fresh air changes than the number prescribed by ASHRAE, say. The counter-argument rode on the premise that fresh air changes would mean more energy usage, which would increase indirect emissions.

When viewed from that context, the Kauai Island project, if successfully scaled up across the globe, would deem the argument based on indirect emissions nearly irrelevant. Clean energy, available round the clock without any disruption – or minimal disruption that is limited to non-peak hours – and, importantly, able to handle the critical mass of HVACR equipment, including energy-intensive chillers – would be as close as we would ever get to energy-utopia and healthy air in the built-environment.

 

 

The writer is Editor, Climate Control Middle East and Editorial Director & Associate Publisher, CPI Industry.


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