Commercial, Solar  -  December 11, 2020

W. M. Keck Observatory completes the largest solar installation at world's highest altitude

The W.M. Keck Observatory, a facility that features two telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii, announced Dec. 10 that it has completed the installation of the world’s largest commercial solar system at the highest altitude.

In partnership with Duke Energy’s REC Solar program, the observatory completed the 133-kW installation at a record-breaking altitude of 13,600 feet on the rooftop of its telescope facility, which houses two of the world’s largest optical and infrared telescopes. The system consists of 332 solar panels and is expected to produce 259.1 MWh of electricity annually, which will reduce the observatory’s electric power needs by around 10-15% and eliminate 183 metric tons of emissions.

“Incorporating renewable energy generators such as solar PV is important to Keck's core values of stewardship and service,” Mark Devenot, infrastructure specialist at Keck Observatory, said in a statement. “It will reduce our reliance on electricity derived mainly from fossil fuels, which underscores our efforts to be good stewards of the planet.”

Hawaiian Electric approved the operation of the solar installation in September, after which it was installed across the 20,940-square-foot ballasted roof of the observatory.

The developers of the project said that the panels will produce more energy at this high-altitude solar system since the panels will catch more photons than at sea-level due to the lesser amount of atmosphere. This is the second solar project developed by Duke Energy in partnership with Keck Observatory, the first of which was at its Waimea headquarters in 2013.

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