Brigham Young University–Hawaii will expand its solar energy collection and storage with a second phase of its renewable energy system project. After completion, BYU–Hawaii will have more than enough energy collection to serve the entire university's needs. The renewable system will also be able to provide electricity to its neighboring sister institutions, the Polynesian Cultural Center and the Laie Hawaii Temple.
"As a university, we strive to be good stewards over our resources,” said BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III. "We are very proud of the progress we've made towards becoming a sustainable campus." The completion of this phase will mean the university will achieve energy independence.
Canopy photovoltaic systems like those placed in the main parking lot and parking lots around the hales will be installed over the parking lot next to the soccer field. A second, more significant site behind the Academic Nursery will feature a six-acre solar farm with panels mounted lower to the ground. Eight additional Tesla Megapack batteries will also be installed and store the increase in energy collection.
Providing for all the campus's energy needs will save millions of dollars per year. With the solar and battery system, BYU–Hawaii will also be able to avoid power fluctuations from the public grid, which happen frequently in Laie due to being at the end of two Hawaiian Electric distribution lines. In the event of a longer power outage, fully charged batteries will be able to provide four to five days of power for essential facilities.
"To self-sustain BYU–Hawaii's electrical needs is really exciting," said Kevin Schlag, operations vice president. "We will improve our ability to sustain our facilities. Even more exciting is that BYU–Hawaii will be able to do the same for the Polynesian Cultural Center and the Laie Hawaii Temple." With the increase in capability planned in phase two, essentially 100% of the day-to-day electricity needs of PCC and the Laie Hawaii Temple will be provided for given good weather conditions outside of large storm events.
Following the completion of phase one of the renewable energy project in June of 2022, BYU–Hawaii's system includes 9164 solar panels and 8200 kWh of battery storage capacity. Currently, about 39% of the university's electricity usage is provided from the sun. Once this next phase of the solar project is complete, projected for the end of 2024, BYU–Hawaii will have 18,100 panels, 9.5 MW (40 MWh) battery capacity, and will be able to collect and convert up to 14,548 MWh of electricity per year.
"Laie is a beautiful, unique, and special place," said Vice President Schlag. "This project is a big step in fulfilling our kuleana as caretakers of this area." This addition to the university's renewable energy system demonstrates a deeper commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. This project will make BYU–Hawaii more financially responsible, and the university will be able to dramatically reduce its carbon footprint compared to what it was only three years ago.