From solar and geothermal to wave and wind energy, the search for renewable energy sources is gaining momentum, leaving residents with several options from which to choose. However, the popularity of West Maui’s Kaheawa Wind Farm has led many to recognize the viability of harnessing energy from winds that course across the Valley Isle.
To the delight of wind energy fans, Sempra Generation, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy, recently announced it has acquired Auwahi Wind Energy LLC, a company developing a 22-megawatt (MW) wind energy and battery storage project on Maui, from Shell WindEnergy Inc., a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell.
The proposed Auwahi Wind Energy project could begin construction in 2011 and commence commercial operations in 2012 on ‘Ulupalakua Ranch. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
“Consistent with our growing renewable presence in the southwestern United States, this project further expands Sempra Generation’s footprint in one of the fastest growing renewable energy markets while further advancing the sustainability goals of Maui and the State of Hawaii,” said Michael W. Allman, president and CEO of Sempra Generation.
An important component of the Maui wind-power project is the development of a battery energy storage unit. The battery could store as much as 28 MWh of wind energy generated by the project’s windmills during the typically windy morning and night hours. The battery power could be stored until late afternoon, when electricity consumption typically reaches its peak, or could be utilized to regulate and smooth intermittent wind power, providing a valuable source of grid stability for Maui Electric.
Sempra Generation recently submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Energy to co-fund costs associated with an expansion of the battery energy storage facility to 72 MWh.
The integrated wind and battery energy storage project could serve as a prototype to help maximize the energy output of other wind power projects in Hawai‘i and throughout the world.
“Shell WindEnergy Inc. has reassessed its wind development efforts in Hawai‘i and will concentrate on projects on the U.S. Mainland and Canada that are more aligned with our strategic direction,” said Dick Williams, president of Shell WindEnergy Inc. “Our portfolio consists of eight wind farms on the U.S. Mainland with a total capacity of almost 900 megawatts. Going forward, we will continue to support Shell’s overall strategy of diversifying its energy mix by developing energy sources that have low carbon emissions.”
Many Maui County residents are eager to see the project up and running, including Alex de Roode, executive director of the Sustainable Living Institute of Maui (SLIM).
“The increased penetration of renewable energy sources in our overall Maui energy portfolio is certainly a move in the right direction, particularly when it is coupled with storage capacity allowing for the firming up of intermittent energy resources such as wind energy,” de Roode said. “I am hopeful that this project will be implemented with the utmost respect and care for the sensitive existing native habitat found in Auwahi and in a manner that complements the active native forest and habitat restoration projects occurring in the area.”
If the project goes forward, Sempra Generation said it would help Maui attain its goal of achieving 95 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
In 2008, the State of Hawai‘i and the U.S. Department of Energy set goals associated with the state’s Clean Energy Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to increase power conservation and help lower the almost exclusive use of oil for island power generation by accelerating the development of renewable, indigenous energy resources in Hawai‘i, such as Auwahi Wind. This goal involves employing efficiency and renewable energy resources that meet 70 percent of Hawai‘i’s energy demand by 2030. Not to mention, the Auwahi Wind project would ease the strain our energy needs place on the natural environment.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, “Wind energy system operations do not generate air or water emissions and do not produce hazardous waste. Nor do they deplete natural resources such as coal, oil, or gas, or cause environmental damage through resource extraction and transportation, or require significant amounts of water during operation. Wind’s pollution-free electricity can help reduce the environmental damage caused by power generation in the U.S. and worldwide.”
If all goes according to plan, the company will break ground in 2011, and the wind farm will be operational by 2012. Sempra Generation has several wind and solar energy projects underway across the Mainland. For more information about Sempra Generation or Auwahi Wind Energy, visit