Molokai Nature Conservancy office to tap into solar power

KALAMAULA, Molokai – Sunlight will be providing the power needed to run lights, electronics and air conditioning at the Nature Conservancy’s office on Molokai beginning Wednesday, the environmental organization announced.

Rising Sun Solar of Maui installed the office’s 8.88-kilowatt photovoltaic array on the roof of the building in the Molokai Industrial Park on the hot and sunny leeward side.

“We were able to basically cover all of our energy needs and put a cap on our energy costs into the future,” said Suzanne Case, the conservancy’s Hawaii executive director. “It’s good for Hawaii both economically and in terms of sustainability.”

Tapping into sun power will help with the organization’s energy costs on Molokai, which has some of the highest electrical rates in the nation, according to Matias Besasso, a partner with Rising Sun Solar.

“Not only can it reduce costs, but it can lead to job creation and greater energy independence and self-sufficiency for Molokai’s people,” he said.

The conservancy’s Molokai director, Ed Misaki, said the solar energy system has been planned for three years.

“Going green is one of our big goals,” he said.

Misaki said the office will remain connected with Maui Electric’s grid under a net energy metering contract, which allows it to use electricity from the utility on cloudy days while excess power can be sold to MECO on days when office power use is low.

Under a power purchase agreement between the conservancy and Rising Sun, the solar company installed and will retain ownership of the system. The conservancy incurred no upfront cost for the system and will pay a monthly fee for energy from the system.

The fee paid to Rising Sun is expected to be about 25 percent less than power from the island’s utility grid, according to an announcement of the arrangement. Savings over 12 years are expected to be more than $50,000.

After 12 years, the conservancy will have the option of negotiating a new contract or purchasing the system at fair market value.

The system’s current cost is $69,596.

“It’s a win-win for us,” said Rico Gomez, the conservancy’s director of internal affairs.

On Molokai, the conservancy’s office has been paying 41 cents per kilowatt-hour, but he said that under the new arrangement with the solar power system, it will pay 30 cents, a savings of 11 cents per kwh.

The Molokai office is not the first conservancy facility to get solar power. The organization’s Honolulu office already has a 12.6-kilowatt photovoltaic array on its roof downtown.

Case said the move toward solar energy is environmentally responsible.

“Every single one of us has to do what we can to reduce our use of fossil fuels – to try to put a limit on global warming, which poses a serious threat to nature and people,” she said.

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