First Wind, an independent U.S.-based wind energy company, has celebrated the start of construction of its 69-MW Kawailoa Wind project on Kamehameha Schools’ Kawailoa Plantation lands on Oahu’s North Shore. Once complete, Kawailoa Wind will be the largest wind energy facility in Hawaii. The site’s 30, 2.3 MW Siemens wind turbines will have the capacity to generate as much as 5% of Oahu’s annual electrical demand.
In December 2011, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approved a power purchase agreement between First Wind and the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), which serves more than 400,000 customers. Hawaii state law mandates 70% clean energy for electricity and surface transportation by 2030, with 40% coming from local renewable sources. Kawailoa Wind will significantly advance the state’s progress toward these goals.
“This project will be an important part of Hawaii’s diverse portfolio of renewable energy resources. As the largest wind farm in Hawaii, Kawailoa represents a significant step toward reducing the impact of imported oil on our customers,” said Dick Rosenblum, Hawaiian Electric Company president and CEO.
Working in concert with the Kamehameha Schools (KS) as part of their North Shore Plan, Kawailoa Wind reflects a collaboration with the community. First Wind has been in discussions about the project with North Shore residents and community organizations for the past two years, while KS began community consultation in 2006, starting with area kūpuna (Hawaiian elders) to guide the process. First Wind also worked with federal, state, and county agencies to obtain the necessary permits.
As with other projects on Maui and Oahu, First Wind developed a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for Kawailoa Wind, working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Division of Forestry and Wildlife of the Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources. The HCP is a wildlife conservation effort that includes research funding and actions to protect and minimize incidental harm to federally listed species in the vicinity of the wind energy project.
First Wind owns and operates two other wind energy projects in Hawaii, and is currently building another project on Maui. Kahuku Wind, also located on Oahu’s North Shore, is a 30 MW wind project. First Wind is currently building a second Maui project, Kaheawa Wind Power II that will consist of 14 wind turbines, capable of generating 21 MW. Once Kaheawa Wind II is complete, the two Kaheawa projects will have a capacity of 51 MW.
Beyond the affordable clean energy they produce, First Wind’s projects in Hawaii have been significant economic drivers. RMT Inc., which also handled construction for First Wind’s Kahuku Wind project on Oahu and is currently building Kaheawa Wind II on Maui, will lead construction efforts for Kawailoa Wind.