Hoku Hatches Investment Firm for Hawaiian Solar Projects


Clean technology in Hawaii is ending the year with a bang. The Aloha State kicked off December with an agreement for Better Place to build an electric vehicle-charging network on the islands, then Khosla Ventures teamed up with utility Hawaiian Electric Co. to evaluate and test solar, lighting, battery and other technologies. And the state is also getting a smart grid under a contract between Hawaiian Electric and Sensus Metering Systems.

Now Hawaii has attracted financing for government solar installations from United Fund Advisors and U.S. Bancorp (s USB) in the form of an investment company launched with Hoku Solar, a subsidiary of the polysilicon, photovoltaic, and fuel cell company Hoku Scientific (s HOKU).

Under an agreement announced yesterday, United Fund Advisors will invest in a special-purpose entity Hoku has created to hold the power purchase agreements for seven photovoltaic projects, which Hawaii’s Department of Transportation contracted Hoku to engineer, design and install at state airports. USB will finance United Fund Advisors’ investment. Hoku’s special-purpose entity will own and operate the solar systems, and sell the electricity they generate to the transportation department over a 20-year contract period.

Hoku (which we’ve written about before) said yesterday it expects to complete all seven projects in the first quarter of 2009, generating a total of nearly 1 megawatt of energy. That’s not much for a state that wants to have 70 percent of its electricity coming from renewable sources by 2030. But this week’s partnership could help smooth the road for financing future clean energy projects in Hawaii. At least United Fund Advisors Senior V-P Chris Hasle hopes it will. “These types of PPA deals are increasingly common on the mainland U.S.,” he said in yesterday’s announcement, “and we believe that these projects could serve as an excellent model for many similar clean energy opportunities in Hawaii.”


mike burchfield

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