On June 30, 2006, Shell WindEnergy Inc. (Shell) announced plans to develop the 40 MW Auwahi Wind Farm at Ulupalakua Ranch. The project may eventually also include pumped hydro storage, to store power from the wind turbines during off-peak periods for use during on-peak periods.
On the island of Hawaii (also known as "the Big Island"), where wind turbines have been producing wind power for many years, several wind energy farms are in operation.
Wind energy has been used by Hawaii’s people throughout their history. The ancient Hawaiians relied on the wind to take their sailing canoes not only on long voyages, but also in everyday activities, such as fishing.
Each of the winds had names. The trade winds, Moa’e, are the prevailing winds; they come from the notheast direction. In modern times, large scale wind power production for electricity started in 1980 with the MOD-0A at Kahuku. The Hawaii Electric Light Company, on the island of Hawaii, continues to operate a windfarm at Lalamilo Wells which was originally installed in 1985.
The original South Point wind farm has been turned off and fourteen new 1.5 Megawatt turbines have been installed at the Pakini Nui Wind Farm. The capacity of the new wind farm is 20.5 MW; start-up was in March of 2007. The project developer is Tawhiri Power, LLC.
A 10.5 Megawatt wind farm by Hawi Renewable Development is located at Upolu Point in North Kohala. It began producing power in 2006. Additional information is provided on the electric utility website: www.heco.com.
According to David Absher, Hawi Renewable Development’s vice president, "Upolu Point is one of the best places in the U.S. to build a wind farm. The wind blows there 70 percent of the time." HELCO’s contract with Hawi Renewable Development "will pay them what we would have paid to produce the same amount of power," according to Warren Lee, HELCO president. "That is, during peak hours (7 a.m. – 9 p.m.) they’ll be paid 9.2 cents per kilowatt hour. During off – peak hours, they’ll be paid 7.47 cents a kilowatt hour." The amount paid will fluctuate with the price of oil.
The Lalamilo Wind Farm, which was originally built in 1985, is still operating and is now owned by Hawaii Electric Light Company. The output of the wind farm has gradually been declining as the small Jacobs turbines — (39) 17.5 kW turbines and (81) 20 kW turbines, originally — have been wearing out. The capacity of the wind farm in 1995 was 2.3 MW. Capacity in 2006 was estimated at about 1.2 MW. The quality of the power generated by the Lalamilo wind farm was enhanced by the installation of a demonstration "electronic shock absorber" system in January 2006. Although the device was damaged by the October, 2006 earthquake, the design has been patented and the unit operated well during the demonstration.
On the island of Kauai, the Kauai Electric Utility Cooperative has signed an agreement with UPC Kauai Wind Power for a project of between 10.5 and 15 MW (www.kiuc.coop).
On the island of Lanai, Castle & Cooke has announced that it will be investigating the feasibility of a 300 Megawatt wind farm on Lanai. An undersea cable would bring the power to Oahu.
Several areas on Oahu have been considered over the years as possible wind farm sites. In the 1980’s, early-generation wind turbines at Kahuku provided valuable information for future wind turbine siting and development, although the turbines stopped operating in the 1990’s. The wind energy potential of the area remains significant; there was interest in possible development. A possible 39 MW project above the Kahe power plant is no longer under consideration.
The Federal "Wind Energy Production Tax Credit," enacted in 1992, provides a 1.9-cent per kilowatt-hour credit (adjusted periodically for inflation) for electricity produced from a wind farm during the first 10 years of its operation. State income tax credits for wind energy systems of 20 percent for the installed cost of wind energy systems (subject to limits) are available.
Hawaii remains the nation’s most fossil-fuel dependent state, with imports supplying about 90 percent of its power needs. Meanwhile, it’s difficult for Hawaii power utilities to take on much more renewable electricity because of its unpredictable nature — the wind has to blow or the sun needs to shine, meaning old-fashioned, oil-fueled generators have to stay online to ensure power keeps flowing.
“The challenge of renewables is that they’re not there when you want them,” said Ted Peck, Hawaii’s energy administrator, who organizes the state’s efforts toward using more renewables. “The smart grid is able to manage when that energy gets to the load.”
The smart grid would help integrate additional clean energy into the grid through computers that could quickly manage Maui’s power needs, adding and subtracting alternative power sources when desired.
“It will give the utility another knob to turn when wind suddenly calms on an afternoon, or when people are coming home and turning on their air conditioning,” said Devon Manz, an engineer at GE’s Global Research Center.
Maui’s independent power grid provides about 200 megawatts of electricity across the island during peak times, with its largest wind facility, Kaheawa wind farm, able to produce up to 30 megawatts within the current system.
Separate from GE’s smart grid, another test project at Kaheawa aims to store and distribute 1 megawatt of renewable power using a large battery, said Noe Kalipi, director of government and community relations for First Wind, which runs the Kaheawa wind farm. Batteries and other electricity storage technologies will make natural energy more feasible to power utilities. “We’re all at the point of figuring out how to integrate more renewable energy,” Kalipi said.
In December 2008, Better Place announced it would use Hawaii as a test site in setting up an infrastructure for electric vehicles (Israel, Denmark, Australia and California are other test sites). The plan, agreed to by Hawaii’s utility service, calls for Better Place to build 50,000 to 100,000 recharging and battery-swap stations by 2012; they will be run using renewable energy purchased from the local utility.
Various electric car manufacturers have expressed interest in the plan, and recently Hawaii’s governor signed a law requiring large parking lots to provide additional space for electric cars by 2011. The state hopes to see 10,000 electric cars on the road by 2014. Experts say Hawaii is an ideal place for them, because travel distances aren’t very far (usually less than 100 miles).