Hawaii offshore wind power projects get boost from Obama administration

The Obama administration has taken the first step to support the development of offshore wind energy off the coast of Hawaii.

“Hawaii has important offshore wind energy potential, and we will continue our work with stakeholders across the spectrum to create a path forward for sustainable offshore-energy development in the right places with the lowest conflicts across the Aloha State,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement issued Wednesday.

In consultation with the Hawaii Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a call for information to gauge the offshore wind industry’s interest in acquiring commercial wind leases in two areas encompassing a combined 485,000 acres of submerged federal lands off Oahu.

The bureau also opened a 45-day public comment period on site conditions, resources and other uses in and near those areas.

Hawaii has a mandate of attaining 100 percent clean-energy generation by 2045.

“As Hawaiians are well aware, energy can be expensive due to the transportation costs of fossil fuels that are needed to supply the state,” said Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Janice Schneider. “Under the leadership of Gov. [David] Ige and the Hawaii Legislature, together we are making progress on creating the policy framework necessary to spur the development of offshore wind-energy technology, helping further their goal of producing 100 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources.”

Two companies have expressed an interest in developing major wind energy farms, each at an estimated cost of $1.6 billion, in federal waters off Oahu.

On May 16, one of them presented its plan at a meeting of the task force in Honolulu. Progression Hawaii Offshore Wind Inc. — which is owned by Portland, Oregon-based Progression Energy and involves Ted Peck, former head of the Hawaii State Energy Office — plans to develop a 400-megawatt project 10 miles southeast of Barbers Point in West Oahu.

Denmark’s Alpha Wind Energy, which was not at the meeting, earlier disclosed a plan to develop a 408-megawatt project in waters off Oahu’s northwest and southern coasts. Jens Petersen, managing director of the company, said last month although he was not made aware of the meeting in time for him to attend, his firm is still interested in developing its project.

The Progression project would start construction in 2020, have 200 megawatts online in the first quarter of 2022 and have the second 200 megawatts online in the first quarter of 2023. Alpha estimated that work on its infrastructure could start by mid-2018 with construction of its wind turbines beginning by mid-2019, leading up to the first turbine delivering power to Oahu’s grid by early 2020.