Hawaii Approves PPA For First Wind 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 energy project 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 farm 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. The Kaheawa HCP is a mitigation and wildlife conservation effort that includes research funding and actions designed to protect and minimize incidental harm to a federally listed species in the vicinity of the wind energy project.

“With long-term pricing de-linked from the cost of oil, this new source of renewable energy is a step toward breaking our vulnerability to the fluctuating price of oil and increasing our energy security,” said Hawaiian Electric President and CEO Dick Rosenblum.

“First Wind appreciates the opportunity to work with Hawaiian Electric and the people of Oahu to decrease Hawaii’s reliance on imported fossil fuels for its electricity needs. Kahuku Wind Power is an important step toward meeting Hawaii’s clean energy goals and First Wind is proud to be a part of this process,” said Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind.

“This will be a major addition to Oahu’s portfolio of renewable energy sources,” said Robbie Alm, Hawaiian Electric executive vice president. “First Wind brings demonstrated wind farm experience to this project and we welcome the opportunity to work with them to help meet the state’s goals of 70 percent clean energy by 2030.”

First Wind also owns and operates the 30 MW Kaheawa wind energy project above Ma’alaea, Maui which provides up to 9 percent of the electricity distributed by Maui Electric Company. Kahuku Wind Power will join Kaheawa as the state’s two largest wind energy projects.

Oahu has the largest population among the Hawaiian Islands and thus the greatest demand for electricity. But the island has comparatively fewer potential sources of renewable energy than other islands in the state.

First Wind is an independent wind energy company exclusively focused on the development, financing, construction, ownership and operation of utility-scale wind projects in the United States. Based in Boston, First Wind has wind projects in the Northeast, the West and in Hawaii, with the capacity to generate up to 504 megawatts of power. 

Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc., and its subsidiaries, Maui Electric Company, Ltd., and Hawaii Electric Light Company, Inc., provide electricity to 95 percent of the state’s 1.2 million residents on Oahu, Maui, Hawaii, Lanai and Molokai islands. Since 1891, Hawaiian Electric has powered the islands’ progress, first as a kingdom, then as a U.S. territory and, since 1959, as the 50th state.