Tesla Megapacks Close Out Coal Era in Hawaii, Arriving Same Time as Last Batch of the Pollutant

by Eva Fox September 29, 2022

Tesla Megapacks Close Out Coal Era in Hawaii, Arriving Same Time as Last Batch of the Pollutant

Photo: Elon Musk/Twitter

Tesla Megapacks arrive in Hawaii concurrent with the last batch of coal that was to be burned at the coal-fired power plant before its final closure. This event marks the end of the coal era in Hawaii, the burning of which led to serious environmental consequences, among other issues in the state.

Closing a coal-fired power plant and expanding storage for renewable energy is truly great news for people who care about the environment. Tesla CEO Elon Musk shared the great news with the public on Twitter: “Last coal shipment arrived in Hawaii at the same time as Tesla Megapack batteries that will enable 24/7 sustainable energy.” The delivery of the coal and Megapacks happened at the same time, at the end of July, which is a very significant event that will go down in the history of the state.


While the arriving Tesla Megapacks were being installed at the Kapolei Energy Storage facility in Oahu, AES Corporation's coal plant was burning tons of coal, polluting the environment. However, as soon as the last batch of coal was burned, the plant stopped its work on September 1 after 30 years of operations.

“It really is about reducing greenhouse gases,” Hawaii Gov. David Ige said in an interview with The Associated Press. “And this coal facility is one of the largest emitters. Taking it offline means that we’ll stop the 1.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases that were emitted annually.”

Like other Pacific islands, the Hawaiian Islands have suffered from the cascading effects of climate change. The state is experiencing coral reef destruction due to bleaching associated with increased ocean temperatures, rapid sea level rise, more intense storms, and drought that is increasing the state’s wildfire risk. That is why, in 2020, Hawaii's Legislature passed a law banning the use of coal for power generation starting 2023. Hawaii is committed to 100% renewable energy by 2045 and was the first state to set such a goal.

In preparation for the closure of the coal-fired power plant, Hawaii has developed a project to generate and store renewable energy. To do this, the Kapolei Energy Storage project, developed by Plus Power, is being built on the island of Oahu. It will have a capacity of 185 MW/565 MWh and will be one of the largest autonomous batteries in the world. It will be powered by 158 Tesla Megapacks. Kapolei Energy Storage was scheduled to launch in the summer of 2022 but has been pushed back to March 10, 2023, due to supply chain issues.

The battery will be able to jump-start the grid if some calamity knocks it out, which grid wonks call “black-start capability.” Plus Power specifically designed the battery to prevent the grid from shutting down in the first place. KES will reserve 50 megawatts of capacity to push out in a fraction of a second if grid frequency falls out of safe range, an event that can precede a cascading grid failure. If the problem continues, the full battery will respond with what is called “grid-forming services.” KES will replicate and maintain the grid frequency with the physical inertia of its spinning metal turbine, as the coal power plant did, but with digital controls and a field of Tesla batteries—becoming what Plus Power's policy leader Polly Shaw called “the ultimate pacemaker for the grid.”

On a daily basis, KES will act as a communal battery for the island as a whole, using the bulk of its capacity to absorb excess midday solar power and feed it back to the grid to serve evening demand. That creates space for more rooftop solar and larger solar fields as Oahu pushes towards 100 percent renewable power.

Hawaiian Electric's modeling suggests KES will store enough to reduce the curtailment of renewables by 69 percent and enable the grid to use 10 percent more renewable energy in its first five years, Shaw noted. The project should save Hawaiian Electric customers more than it costs over the 20-year contract.

© 2022 by Eva Fox | Tesmanian. All rights reserved.

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Article edited by @SmokeyShorts; follow him on Twitter








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