May 10, 2022 | Source: Pacific Business News

G70 and Tracy Camuso lead on solar power expansion in Hawaii

As Hawaii aims to achieve 100% clean energy by 2045, Island businesses have seen unprecedented demand for commercial solar projects.

G70, a Hawaii architecture, planning, and civil engineering design firm, is one such business that has evolved to meet the demand. In recent years, it has contributed to major projects on Oahu, including the largest solar farm in the state.

G70’s Principal Planner Tracy Camuso plays a lead role in utility-scale solar development. Born and raised in Hawaii, Camuso draws on a career spanning the state Legislature, Congress, and more than 15 years of environmental and land-use planning at G70. She has worked at the nexus of policy, planning, and development in Hawaii.

Today, she oversees a solar energy project portfolio that has grown to contribute some 10% to G70’s business.

In a conversation with PBN, Camuso discussed three projects recently completed. Partners included Clearway Energy, Inc. (NYSE:CWEN.A), a New Jersey company that develops and operates solar farms nationally; Moss, a Florida-based construction firm that delivered $750 million of project value nationally last year; and Goodfellow Brothers, a 100 year-old construction contractor based in Kihei, Maui and operating across the Islands.

First, Kawaiola Solar, Hawaii’s largest solar project to date, is situated next to the state’s largest wind farm — also a Clearway project — above Waimea Bay on the North Shore. It was constructed by Goodfellow Bros. at a project cost of $7 million. This 49-megawatt (MW) project uses more than 500,000 solar panels to generate enough power for 14,300 homes annually. 

Second, located in Central Oahu, Clearway’s Waipio Solar adds another 160,000 panels, providing 45.9 MW of generation capacity to the electric grid.

Finally, Mililani Solar II provides 39 MW of capacity using 160,000 solar panels on vacant former pineapple lands. (The generation capacity of each of these projects varies based on the year, make, and model of the solar panels).

These solar projects, which last for 20 to 30 years, offer opportunities to integrate agriculture with renewable energy generation. Sheep grazing and mixed-use solar-plus-farming plots are elements of Clearway’s current projects.

Aiming to support the industry by fostering local energy talent, Clearway (in partnership with Blue Planet and Kamehameha Schools) offers internships for students, scientists, and engineers.

Beyond these three major projects, there are more than 20 utility-scale solar projects already under construction or approved for development.

Despite positive business momentum, much remains to be be done, says Camuso. “It’s getting more challenging to build these projects. And as land becomes more scarce, we’re going to have to figure out how to better balance food and renewables together. Increased stakeholder education and local community engagement will be key.”

Nevertheless, she remains optimistic about the benefits of the work for all partners, customers, and stakeholders. “I believe in our clients as leaders in this industry,” Camuso said. “It can be a tough job, but we’re trying to save the planet. Right?”