Ireland Leads the Way: Cutting-Edge Battery System Takes Over Hawaii’s Final Coal Plant

"Plus Power's Kapolei Energy Storage Facility Paves the Way for Sustainable Future as Hawaii Shuts Down Last Coal Plant"

In a significant development towards achieving sustainability, Plus Power’s Kapolei Energy Storage (KES) facility in Hawaii has officially begun its commercial operations. This milestone comes as Hawaii bids farewell to its last coal plant, with KES stepping in to provide a groundbreaking solution for maintaining grid reliability during the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

Considered the most advanced grid-scale battery energy storage system (BESS) in the world, KES utilizes rechargeable batteries to store energy from various sources and discharge it when needed. Comprising 158 Tesla Megapacks with a total capacity of 185 megawatts of instantaneous discharge, the project matches the power output of the retired coal plant but boasts a faster response time of 250 milliseconds.

The state of Hawaii made the decision to shut down its last coal plant on September 1, 2022, as part of its commitment to achieving 100% renewable energy for electricity by 2045. However, the challenge of ensuring grid reliability with a mix of renewable sources that are subject to weather fluctuations arose. The Kapolei Energy Storage system addresses this challenge by absorbing excess power from the grid during renewable generation peaks and delivering it during high-demand evening hours.

Brandon Keefe, Executive Chairman of Plus Power, expressed his pride in contributing to Hawaii’s renewable energy goals and facilitating the transition. Keefe emphasized the significance of this project, stating, “This is a landmark milestone in the transition to clean energy… This project is a postcard from the future — batteries will soon be providing these services, at scale, on the mainland.”

Despite facing construction setbacks, including disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the project’s remote location, KES is now fully operational. It surpasses several other renewable energy projects in terms of replacing the capacity of the retired coal plant. This massive battery project aligns with Hawaii’s commitment to becoming a leader in clean energy adoption and grid transformation.

The Kapolei Energy Storage system operates differently from traditional coal plants, requiring a new framework to replicate essential grid functions. While the old coal plant provided energy, capacity, and grid services, the battery directly replaces the latter two aspects. With its 185 megawatts of instantaneous discharge capacity, Kapolei matches the power output of the coal plant. Additionally, it offers grid services such as synthetic inertia and fast frequency response to stabilize the grid in real time.

Although the battery’s 565 megawatt-hours of storage cannot directly replace the coal plant’s energy production, it works in collaboration with solar energy sources to enhance the integration of clean renewable energy into the grid. KES enables Hawaiian Electric to reduce the curtailment of renewables by an estimated 69% for the first five years, minimizing the waste of surplus clean electricity. Furthermore, the battery provides black-start capability, allowing it to restart the grid in case of a complete outage due to a disaster.

According to Keefe, Kapolei is considered the most advanced battery energy storage facility globally due to its multifaceted capabilities, including capacity, grid services, and black-start functionality. He further explained that since the project connects to three other power plants, the battery can act as a AAA battery to jump-start those plants.

Lithium-ion batteries are seen as a crucial solution for facilitating the world’s transition to clean, renewable energy sources to meet the critical 1.5 degrees Celsius scenario by 2050, also known as Net Zero. Companies and governments are increasingly turning to battery energy storage systems (BESS) to achieve their sustainability goals. Research suggests that the BESS market in the U.S. alone will grow to over $15 billion by 2027. The increased use and future demand for renewable energy will further drive the global grid-scale BESS market growth. According to the International Energy Agency’s projections, renewables will account for over 90% of global electricity capacity expansion from 2022 to 2027, with growth expected to be faster in locations where renewables are expanding more rapidly than average.

Hawaii’s Kapolei Energy Storage system serves as a groundbreaking model for a reliable clean-energy grid, addressing the challenges associated with transitioning from fossil-fueled plants to renewable sources. The KES battery project utilizes 158 Tesla Megapack 2 XL lithium iron phosphate batteries, each roughly the size of a shipping container. In comparison to California’s grid battery fleet, which constitutes 7.6% of the state’s grid capacity, Kapolei alone represents approximately 17% of Oahu’s peak capacity, underscoring its central role in maintaining grid stability.

Looking ahead, Kapolei’s success highlights its significance in achieving U.S. climate goals by phasing out fossil fuels from the electric grid. As one of the first real-world instances of successfully transitioning grid functions, the model established by Kapolei provides valuable insights for scaling similar grid services nationwide, offering a blueprint for the future of sustainable grid solutions.

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons is the founder of Forestry & Carbon. Matt has over 25 years as a forestry consultant and is invoilved in numerous carbon credit offset projects.

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