Chevron Corp. has built the state’s largest “solar canopy,” a 414-kilowatt photovoltaic system positioned over 177 parking spaces at Oceanic Time Warner’s headquarters in Mililani.
The canopy will provide shade for the cars of customers and employees at the Oceanic complex and generate — along with a rooftop photovoltaic system — 20 percent of the facility’s energy needs.
The project is part of a growing trend among businesses in Hawaii to cut their energy costs by installing solar generation systems that provide electricity at a fixed rate for less than they pay their utility. Businesses can either finance the cost of the systems themselves or work with a third party that pays the upfront costs and sells the electricity back to the business under a power purchase agreement.
Chevron Energy Solutions, a unit of Chevron Corp., built the Oceanic Time Warner PV system. When the rooftop and parking canopy are combined, the system has a generating capacity of 856 kilowatts.
The system is owned by San Francisco-based Tioga Energy, which will sell the electricity to the cable company at a fixed rate over 20 years. The rate is less that what Oceanic had been paying Hawaiian Electric Co. for the same amount of power.
“This project helps to provide budget for our energy costs and the opportunity to use renewable power,” said Norman Santos vice president of operations for Oceanic.
The PV panels mounted on poles over the parking area are tilted at a height ranging from 9 feet on one edge and 10 feet on the other.
The project’s 3,566 panels are expected to generate 1.26 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, equal to what 175 typical Oahu homes would use in a year. That would result in the reduction of 1,064 tons of carbon emissions a year, Chevron estimates.
While dozens of businesses have put PV systems on their rooftops, mounting them on parking lot canopies is still relatively new in Hawaii. Only a handful have been built, including a 280-kilowatt system at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa.
“There aren’t very many canopy projects in Hawaii,” said Brian Kealoha, regional manager for Chevron Energy Solutions. “There is a level of complexity to putting panels on a canopy. It’s a little more challenging than a rooftop,” he said.
The company has been a leader in canopy PV systems, with projects totaling 19 megawatts across the country, Kealoha said. “There is a little more cost component to a canopy system, but we’ve been able to drive the price down,” he said.
“There is a lot of untapped potential for projects like this in Hawaii, especially with the high energy prices,” Kealoha said, noting that the company had several more projects in the pipeline.