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Maui Health Talk Harnessing the wind for power in Hawaii

Harnessing the wind for power in Hawaii

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Harnessing wind Power is not new to Hawaii. Since 1980 various wind farm projects have been built in the islands of Oahu, Maui, Molokai and the Big Island, including the world's largest turbine for its time (1987) with mixed results and outcomes.

 Following is an extensive list of projects and outcomes:

HAWAII » The Big Island's newest source of power, a 10.5-megawatt wind farm consisting of 16 Vestas turbines have been in operation since mid-May near Upolu Point at the northern tip of the island.

Earlier this month, Gov. Linda Lingle signed a bill requiring the state's utilities to have 20 percent of their power come from renewable sources by 2020. The Big Island already has 22 percent, Lee said.

In July 2006, a new  wind farm development plan was announced by Shell WindEnergy Inc.  at the Auwahi wind project on Maui's Ulupalakua Ranch.
Maui is world famous as a wind surfing mecca with strong consistant windy conditions.

 If approved, the Auwahi wind project's first phase is expected to be completed by 2008.  The first phase is expected to provide up to 40 megawatts of wind power, enough to power thousands of homes on Maui.

Hawaii pays among the highest utility rates in the United States and is seeking to produce more power from renewable sources. When the Auwahi wind project is in operation close to 20 percent of Maui's energy could come from wind turbines.

The total project is expected to cost more than $200 million and take from three to five years to complete.

"This is great news for Ulupalakua Ranch, Maui and Hawaii," said Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle, a former mayor of Maui County. "It is an important step toward reducing Hawaii's dependence on imported fossil fuel and meeting our goal of having 20 percent of our energy come from renewable sources by the year 2020."

Mike May, president & CEO of Hawaiian Electric Company, the parent company of Maui Electric Company and Renewable Hawaii Inc., said, "This project and the arrival of Shell WindEnergy into the Hawaiian Islands represent a win all around, especially for Hawaii and our key goal of reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels."

"This is a great opportunity for up-country Maui," said Sumner Erdman, president of Ulupalakua Ranch, Inc. "On the Mainland, wind energy has offered an economic boost to many ranches and farms and now this is happening here. This deal will provide income for the ranch to help us continue our diversification in an environmentally friendly way."

Three wind projects coming on line  for Hawaii and will add up to more than 60 megawatts, enough power for more than 7,000 homes when all is blowing well.

Besides Hawi Renewable's 10.5 megawatts, Apollo Power Corp. near South Point at the bottom of the Big Island is planning 14 GE wind turbines with a combined capacity of 21 megawatts. They will replace aging machines that produce 7 megawatts at best.

On a ridge above Maalaea Harbor on Maui, Kaheawa Wind Power is putting finishing touches on 20 GE turbines with a total capacity of 30 megawatts.

Last week, Kaheawa had nine of the 20 in operation, regularly producing 10 megawatts and sometimes up to 13 megawatts, said Maui Electric engineering manager Neil Shinyama.

Besides those projects, the partnership installing Kaheawa, Makana Nui Associates and UPC Wind Partners LLC, has also won the right to build 10 to 15 megawatts for Kauai Island Utility Cooperative at an undecided location.

The choice of GE machines for two of the three new sites is due to the fact that they are "more user-friendly," Shinyama said.

The GE machines have features that let them stay on line when wind stops, regulate their pace and shut off some while others continue, a GE statement said.

Denmark-based Vestas, used at Upolu, is the world's largest producer of wind turbines.

HELCO operates its own 2.3-megawatt wind farm at Lalamilo near Waimea, where output is smoothed by a trailer-size PureWave Electronic Shock Absorber.

Following is an extensive list of historic wind harnessing projects and outcomes of previous wind farm projects in Hawaii:

MOD-0A (1980)
U.S. Department of Energy/NASA wind demonstration project
HECO operated MOD-0A for 2 years
Westinghouse 200 kW design
Most productive of all 4 MOD-0A installations
Capacity factor ~36 percent

Kahuku Wind Farm Westinghouse Turbines (1985)
Hawaiian Electric Renewable Systems (HERS) installed, owned and operated from 1985-1993
(15) 600 kW Westinghouse turbines
Westinghouse design. Westinghouse did not continue in the wind energy area, so there were no upgrades available.
Energy production lower than projected
Operation and maintenance costs higher than projected
Turbines sold in 1993 to New World Power
New World Power owned and operated from 1993 to 1996
New World Power eventually went bankrupt
Reverted to landowner, Campbell Estates
U.S. Army acquiring parcels at Kahuku for training

Boeing MOD-5B Wind Turbine (1987)

Hawaiian Electric Renewable Systems (HERS) owned and operated from 1987-1993
3,200 kW Boeing turbine
World’s largest wind turbine at the time (a special crane had to be shipped in to install it). The two blades together measured 320 feet from tip to tip. One of the blades is on display in Honolulu at the Ward Avenue facility of Hawaiian Electric Company.
Last of federal-sponsored turbines, was built for the U.S. Department of Energy by the Boeing Aerospace Company, under the project management of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It was an experimental machine.
Energy production was lower than projected

Maalaea, Maui

Maui Wind Energy Development Windane Wind Turbine (1984)

Danish Pacific Windpower owned and operated
MECO hosted 340 kW wind turbine demonstration
MECO later purchased the unit (1989)
Dismantled due to structural problems (1991)

Kahua Ranch, Hawaii

Kahua Ranch has had several wind projects, including one which used three 10 kW Bergey wind turbines, a 10kW PV array, and a 30 kW diesel generator, in conjunction with a battery bank and pumped hydro system, to supply power to a greenhouse and 11 homes and shops on the ranch. This "village power" system was not connected to the electrical grid. The system was a prototype for a larger version in Fiji.

A 10-MW wind project is planned at Kahua Ranch. Find out more in the current projects section.

Lalamilo Wells, Hawaii

(39) 17.5 kW Jacobs wind turbines and (81) 20 kW Jacobs wind turbines
On-line 1985
Acquired by HEI in 1987 and operated until 1993
Operated by Lalamilo Ventures (HEI subsidiary) until 1996
Assets turned over to HELCO in Dec. 1996
Presently 81 turbines operating: (26) 17.5 kW and (55) 20 kW Jacobs wind turbines

South Point, Hawaii

Wind farm at South Point on the Island of Hawaii, on 100 acres of cattle range land
Built in 1986 by Kamaoa Wind Energy Partners
(37) 250 kW Mitsubishi wind machines; total capacity of 9.3 MW
Apollo Energy Corporation bought the Kamaoa Wind Farm in 1994
Currently operating in a derated mode (approximately 7 MW)
Apollo Energy Corp. is currently negotiating a “Restated and Amended Contract” for the repowering and expansion of the existing windfarm to increase the output to 20 MW of instantaneous power. Plans are to replace the Mitsubishi 250 kW turbines with Lagerway 750 kW turbines. Find out more in the current projects section.


Molokai Wind Energy Development - Vestas Wind Turbines (1991)
1 MW private wind farm development on Molokai
Power purchase agreement (PUC approved)
Wind-Diesel wind farm demonstration
(3) 100 kW Vestas wind turbines
(1) 100 kW diesel generator
Electronic problems due to possible lighting strike (1994)
Power purchase agreement terminated (1997)


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