The North Shore of Oahu is about to have a new power plant – a clean power plant that generates 30 megawatts of electricity from wind.
"To be continually dependent on imported oil or energy is a dead end for Hawaii and we can be a model for the world," Gov. Linda Lingle said, attending a groundbreaking and blessing ceremony at the First Wind mountaintop site above Kahuku.
"The goal is to be generating power in the early part of 2011," said Paul Gaynor, First Wind CEO. "We’ll probably have some test power in November/December and then commercially operating in January/February of 2011."
The company says the wind project will cut Hawaii’s oil consumption by nearly 140,000 barrels a year.
Twelve towering structures will be installed here using Clipper Liberty wind turbines, the largest made in North America. They’ve already arrived by ship ready for installation within the next six months.
"You will see them," said Pane Meatoga Jr., president of the Laie Community Association. "First Wind did a really great job as far as doing completely generated visual affects from seeing it from the golf course, the hospital, the highway."
The site will have a habitat conservation plan to protect endangered species nearby.
Getting the giant turbines to the site will take up time and space along Kahuku’s two-lane highway.
"Well, be patient; if everyone can be patient with the traffic on the road," Meatoga said. "Traffic is a big issue for us on this side but it’s something we’ve learned to live with."
Though the wind blows steady here, one problem with wind power is how variable it can be. This project will have a first-in-the-nation power storage technology to smooth out what otherwise could be a highly fluctuating supply to HECO.
The project is about a $140 million investment, backed largely by an upcoming loan guarantee by the U.S. Department of Energy – also a first of its kind nationwide. It’s expected to generate 200 construction jobs to build the project to its maximum scale.
"This will be as big as it gets for the foreseeable future," Gaynor said. "So what you’ll see here in six months is essentially what will be here 20 years from now."
Wind power is expected to grow in Hawaii, including windmills on Lanai and Molokai with an undersea cable that would bring 400 megawatts of power to Oahu for consumption. An environmental review is underway.
"That would be a huge boost in our effort to create energy securely for the people of Hawaii and for the next generation," Lingle said.
3 news stories about Hawaii Wind Farm: