Hawaii Approves Kahuku Wind Energy Project

The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission yesterday approved a power purchase agreement between Kahuku Wind Power and Hawaiian Electric Company for the utility to purchase renewable energy to be produced by the 30 megawatt (MW) wind farm to be constructed on Oahu’s North Shore.

Under the terms of the contract, Kahuku Wind Power, a subsidiary of Massachusetts-based First Wind, will sell as-available renewable energy to Hawaiian Electric at pre-determined prices over 20 years, providing a valuable hedge against fluctuating oil prices.

Located west of Kahuku town in the hills near Charlie Road, the wind energy project will consist of 12 Clipper Liberty wind turbines each having 2.5-MW capacity. Kahuku Wind Power will also include a battery energy storage system to assist in meeting performance standards and smoothing fluctuations in wind energy output. The battery storage system has been developed by Xtreme Power, Inc. and will be the largest of its kind in Hawaii. The project will also include a microwave communication system to connect the wind energy project to the Hawaiian Electric system operations and dispatch center. Construction is scheduled to begin later this year.

When completed, Kahuku Wind Power will be the only wind energy project on Oahu and one of the largest wind energy projects in the state. It will have the capacity to generate an estimated 80,000 megawatt hours each year — enough energy to power the equivalent of 7,700 Oahu homes, reduce oil consumption by about 153,000 barrels a year and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 96 million pounds per year, according to statistics from the Energy Information Administration of the Department of Energy.

First Wind has been in discussions about the project with Kahuku residents, community organizations and businesses in the Ko`olauloa and North Shore districts, and has worked with federal, state, and county agencies to obtain permits.

As part of the permitting process, First Wind developed a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Division of Forestry and Wildlife in the State’s Department of Land and Natural Resources. The plan will be modeled on the HCP developed for First Wind’s Kaheawa Wind Power on Maui, which was the first operating wind energy project in the United States to implement an HCP.