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Ka`u News Briefs Friday, Sept. 11, 2015

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Stewards of Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park's rainforest take a break on historic Crater Rim Trail, one of the focal areas for Stewardship at the Summit, which is seeking volunteers for programs through December. Photo from NPS
PRESERVE HAWAI`I’S RURAL COMMUNITIES, a group of Ocean View-area residents who oppose a proposed 26-lot solar project in subdivisions makai of Hwy 11 as well as similar projects in other areas, has a new website at phrc.us.
Christine Gallagher's home of 36 years could be surrounded by solar arrays.
Photo from PHRC
      “We are supportive of renewable energy, but this farm will consist of 1.6 acres of solar panels on 26 lots, 18 of them in the Ranchos, and a new substation,” the website states. “The entire area, mauka and makai, will be affected by issues including fire safety, toxic waste disposal, forced industrialization of the communities, destruction of natural and cultural resources, (and) night light pollution.
      “The Project will result in radical and irreversible changes on both sides of Highway 11.
      “HELCO has said that the solar farm will not lower energy costs in the community.
      “New Hawai`i Revised Statute §205-2:6 was rushed through the Legislature. It does not require Environmental Impact Statements or community input for large solar installations on agricultural land.
      “Please join us in opposing this unwanted and dangerous solar farm.”
      A meeting with the project’s developer Ian Craig and director Dominic Lopez is scheduled for 6 p.m. today at Ocean View Community Center. According to PHRC member Christine Gallagher, meeting organizers expect representatives from Hawai`i Electric Light Co., County Council member Maile David and state Rep. Richard Creagan to attend. Mayor Billy Kenoi may also attend.
      Residents wishing to testify will each have three minutes to do so.
      Read comments, add your own, and like The Ka`u Calendar News Briefs on Facebook.

IS UTILITY-SCALE SOLAR in Hawai`i Island’s future? The first utility-scale solar array and battery storage system designed to supply power to the grid in the evening is being planned on Kaua`i, where Kaua`i Island Utility Cooperative has signed a power purchase agreement with SolarCity for electricity from the project.
      The project is believed to be the first utility-scale system in the U.S. to provide dispatchable solar energy, meaning that the utility can count on electricity being available when it’s needed, even hours after the sun goes down.
KIUC is expanding it current solar system to include a utility-scale solar array
and battery storage system. Photo from KIUC
      The 52 megawatt-hour battery system will feed up to 13 megawatts of electricity onto the grid to lessen the amount of conventional power generation needed to meet the evening peak, which lasts from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. By using the solar energy stored in the battery instead of diesel generators, KIUC will reduce its use of imported fossil fuels and also cut its greenhouse gas emissions.
      Under terms of the 20-year contract, KIUC will pay Solar City a lower rate than the current cost of conventional generation and only slightly more than the cost of energy from KIUC’s two existing 12-megawatt solar arrays, whose output is available only during the day.
      “KIUC has been investigating energy storage options for more than two years, and price has always been the biggest challenge,” said David Bissell, President and CEO of KIUC. “This is a breakthrough project on technology and on price that enables us to move solar energy to the peak demand hours in the evening and reduce the amount of fossil fuel we’re using.”
      Jon Yoshimura, Director of Policy and Electricity Markets for Solar City, said, “Solar City is excited to bring the first dispatchable solar storage system to the island of Kaua`i. Hawai`i has been and continues to be at the forefront of new technology and research for solar and storage. This solution will allow for more efficient load balancing and will reduce dependence on fossil fuel-based power.”
      KIUC has requested an accelerated timetable for approval by the Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission. To qualify for federal investment tax credits that will substantially reduce the cost of the project, construction work must begin by April 2016 so the project can be in commercial operation by Dec. 31, 2016.
      Solar City was the contractor on KIUC’s first 12-megawatt solar array, which went into commercial operation in September 2014 and supplies about five percent of Kaua`i’s electricity.
      Read comments, add your own, and like The Ka`u Calendar News Briefs on Facebook.

Abnormally warm waters are contributing to coral bleaching
in Hawai`i. Map from NOAA
RESEARCHERS ARE SEEING EVIDENCE of a long predicted, severe coral bleaching event in Hawai`i for August-October 2015. The Department of Land and Natural Resources, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Hawai`i Institute of Marine Biology are collectively monitoring the extent of coral bleaching from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands/Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument to the main Hawaiian Islands.
      Warmer water temperatures can result in coral bleaching, and Hawai`i is seeing warm ocean waters due to El Nino weather conditions. When water is too warm, corals expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues, causing the coral to turn completely white.
      According to NOAA, when a coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality.
      Read comments, add your own, and like The Ka`u Calendar News Briefs on Facebook.

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STATE Departments of Agriculture holds its annual meeting in Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa next week. The meeting, hosted by NASDA President and Hawai`i Chairman of Agriculture Scott Enright, will focus on a theme of “Agriculture’s Traditions, Agriculture’s Future.” During the opening session, Enright will launch NASDA’s new five-year strategic plan. Dr. Dennis Gonsalves, who was responsible for the development of a genetically engineered papaya that saved the state’s valuable papaya industry, will also make remarks during the opening session. Additional speakers for the meeting include USDA Under Secretary Michael Scuse and former Hawai`i Attorney General Margery Bronster.
      During the meeting, NASDA members will vote on over 20 policy amendments (changes to permanent policy) and action items (specific action requests supported by existing policy). These items demonstrate the diverse portfolio of state Department of Agriculture responsibilities from child nutrition to antimicrobial resistance to environmental protection.
      Complementing the theme of agriculture’s traditions and future, tours will focus on Hawai`i’s unique coffee industry and the state’s innovative green energy development at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawai`i. The state’s unique agricultural products will also be on display with exotic fruit tastings and products from Hawai`i Seal of Quality agricultural producers.
      According to GMO-Free Hawai`i, the group is considering holding a protest on the highway in front of resort on Sunday at the Sheraton Kona Resort. See GMOFreeHawaiiIsland on Facebook.
Stewardship leader Jane Field lops Himalayan ginger, one of the world's
top 100 invasive species. Photo from NPS
      Read comments, add your own, and like The Ka`u Calendar News Briefs on Facebook.

STEWARDSHIP AT THE SUMMIT SEEKS volunteers for programs scheduled through December. 
      Programs begins at 9 a.m. and end at 12 p.m. on Sept. 18 and Sept. 26 (National Public Lands Day); Oct. 2, 17, 23 and 30; November 6, 13, 21 and 28; and December 4, 9, 18 and 26.
      Volunteers help remove invasive, non-native plant species that prevent native species from growing. Meet project leaders Paul and Jane Field at Kilauea Visitor Center at 9 a.m. on any of the scheduled dates. Wear sturdy hiking shoes and long pants. Bring a hat, raingear, day pack, snacks and water. Gloves and tools are provided. No advance registration is required, and there is no cost to participate. Park entrance fees apply.
      Volunteers have dedicated more than 5,000 hours of their time and have restored more than 25 acres of native rainforest within the national park since 2012. Countless Himalayan ginger, faya, strawberry guava and other invasive, non-native plants that threaten the native understory have been removed. In their place, once-shaded `ama`u and hapu`u tree ferns have re-emerged, and pa`iniu, kawa`u and other important native plants are returning to the stewardship plots.
Hikers head for the summit of Pu`u o Lokuana. Photo from NPS
      Read comments, add your own, and like The Ka`u Calendar News Briefs on Facebook.

KAHUKU UNIT OF HAWAI`I Volcanoes National Park offers free programs this weekend. The Birth Of Kahuku is the topic of a free, guided, easy-to-moderate hike tomorrow from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Participants traverse the vast 1868 lava flow, see different volcanic features and formations, identify many parts of Mauna Loa’s Southwest Rift Zone and learn about the Hawaiian hotspot and the creation of Kahuku.
      Pu`u o Lokuana is a short, moderately difficult 0.4-mile hike to the top of the grassy cinder cone on Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Participants learn about the formation and various uses of this hill over time and enjoy a breathtaking view of lower Ka`u.
           For more information, call 985-6011.

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