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Hawaiian co-op expresses interest in small hydro, pumped-storage projects

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Power generated by a new Gay & Robinson Inc. small hydropower project on Lauai's Olokele Ditch will be purchased by the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, according to a tentative agreement from the co-op's board of directors.

The new 6 MW project is an expansion to G&R's existing 1.3-MW plant on the Olokele Ditch that was completed in 1920.

"KIUC is very pleased to be working with G&R on the first new, large-scale hydropower plant built on Kauai in 80 years," KIUC president and CEO David Bissell said. "With this agreement, we're nearly at our strategic goal of using renewables to generate 50% of our energy, and well ahead of the 2023 deadline we set."

The co-op said the new plant will reduce its oil consumption by about 1.4 million gallons per year.

The terms of the proposed contract are confidential and still subject to approval by the state's Public Utilities Commission, though G&R said it hopes the new plant will be operational by 2019.

KIUC is also pursuing a pumped-storage hydropower project to be located on state land on Kauai's west side. The co-op has obtained access to two potential sites from Hawaii's Agribusiness Development Corp., Department of Land and Natural Resources, and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands that will allow it to conduct technical studies.

The utility will hold a public informational briefing about the pumped-storage project later this month.

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