First Wind Starts Building Kahuku Wind Project

First Wind this week began construction of its 30-megawatt (MW) Kahuku Wind project, the only utility-scale wind energy project on Oahu and one of the largest in Hawaii.

Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle joined officials from First Wind, community leaders and others in a ceremony to mark the groundbreaking at this site using o’o (Hawaiian digging stick).

“The Kahuku Wind project brings Hawaii another step closer to reducing our state’s dependence on imported foreign oil and increasing our energy security,” said Governor Lingle.  “These wind turbines will provide another source of clean energy for Oahu’s power grid, further building on the progress Hawaii has made in becoming a world leader in clean energy.” 

Construction of the Kahuku Wind project, which was spurred along by an expected $117 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), will create immediate economic benefits for Oahu such as employment opportunities during design, engineering and construction including approximately 200 construction jobs.  The loan guarantee is expected to close soon.

Once completed, the project will support the ambitious Hawaiian Clean Energy Initiative, which aims to have 70 percent of the state’s energy for electricity and ground transportation come from clean energy by 2030. 

The project will consist of twelve 2.5 MW Clipper Liberty wind turbines.  Manufactured in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Liberty turbines are the largest wind turbines manufactured in North America. 

Kahuku Wind 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 was developed by Xtreme Power, Inc. and will be the largest of its kind in Hawaii.  The project will also include a dedicated communication system to connect the wind energy project to Hawaiian Electric Company’s system operations and dispatch center. 

“Our continued collaboration with First Wind underscores the importance of power management systems in mitigating the variability of wind energy,” said Carlos Coe, CEO of Xtreme Power.  “We are excited to work with First Wind on the Kahuku project and look forward seamlessly delivering clean energy to the Hawaiian grid.”

In early May, Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approved the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between Kahuku Wind Power and Hawaiian Electric Company for the utility to purchase renewable energy to be produced by the project.  As part of the PPA, First Wind will sell as-available renewable energy from the project to Hawaiian Electric at pre-determined prices over 20 years, providing a valuable hedge against fluctuating oil prices. 

First Wind successfully built and currently operates Hawaii’s largest wind energy facility, the 30 MW Kaheawa Wind Power project in Maui. As part of the Kaheawa project, First Wind also implemented what it believes is the nation’s first Habitat Conservation Plan for a working wind energy project.  The Kahuku Wind project will also feature a Habitat Conservation Plan so that endangered species can be protected near the project.

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