Hawaii Considers Plans for Shell’s Proposed Maui Wind Farm

Hawaii, which pays among the highest utility rates in the U.S. and is seeking to produce more power from renewable sources, may get some relief from Shell WindEnergy Inc.’s (Shell) recent announcement of plans to develop the Auwahi wind project on Maui’s Ulupalakua Ranch, Shell’s first wind farm in the State of Hawaii.

The project’s first phase may provide up to 40 megawatts (MW) of wind power from turbines that would stand in a remote corner of the 20,000-acre ranch. Shell is currently applying for permits to set up meteorological monitoring towers on the site to measure the available wind resource. The site was chosen because of its exceptionally strong winds and because it was felt that there would be minimal visual impact. If approved, the Auwahi wind project will provide wind-generated electricity for thousands of homes on Maui. When the Auwahi wind project is in operation it is estimated that close to 20% 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, with the first phase expected to be completed by 2008, subject to planning permission. The joint announcement by Shell and Ulupalakua Ranch was welcomed by Hawaiian Electric Company and Renewable Hawaii Inc. The project may also combine wind and hydroelectric power. Pumped hydro storage technology could store power from the wind turbines during off-peak periods, which could then be used to help meet peak demand. The concept of integrating this wind project with pumped hydro storage was advocated by Renewable Hawaii Inc., a subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Company. “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. Our thanks go to Ulupalakua Ranch, the Hawaiian Electric companies and especially to Shell WindEnergy for its confidence in Hawaii’s potential for renewable energy.” John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Company, said he hoped Auwahi would be the first of several renewable energy projects involving Shell in Hawaii. “Shell has a strong commitment to renewables, including wind energy. Shell has already demonstrated that modern, technologically advanced wind farms work well on the Mainland and we believe developing wind farms in Hawaii could be a model for island communities around the world.” “The agreement will allow us to keep the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) culture alive and keep ranch land open and in agriculture rather than in urban development. And we will be careful to respect the rich Native Hawaiian cultural history of the area, and the environmental and other concerns of our friends and neighbors on Maui,” said Sumner Erdman, president of Ulupalakua Ranch, Inc.
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