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First Wind starts operations for its Kawailoa project

Thirty Siemens turbines were installed on the project site. They will generate 69 MWs, enough to power 14,500 homes on the island.

First Wind, an independent U.S.-based wind energy company, has completed construction of its Kawailoa Wind project and commercial operations have begun.

Located on Kamehameha Schools’ Kawailoa Plantation lands on Oahu’s North Shore, the 69 megawatt (MW) wind project will be able to generate enough clean and cost-competitive wind energy to power the equivalent of approximately 14,500 homes on the island. At full output, it has the potential to meet as much as 5 to 10 percent of Oahu’s annual electrical demand and avoid the burning of about 300,000 barrels of oil per year.

“This is, by far, the single largest wind energy project in Hawaii’s history,” said Lt. Governor Brian Schatz. The Kawailoa project is First Wind’s second project on Oahu and fourth in the Hawaiian islands.

Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind, said, “Now with our Kawailoa project online, First Wind’s combined projects on Oahu and Maui have the capacity to generate enough clean energy to serve over 40,000 businesses and homes in local communities throughout Hawaii.”

Late last year, 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 Hawaii customers. Hawaii state law mandates 70 percent clean energy for electricity and surface transportation by 2030, with 40 percent coming from local renewable sources. Kawailoa Wind will significantly advance the state’s progress toward these goals.

“Wind power is an important clean energy resource for Hawaii and one of the keys to breaking our dependence on imported oil. Kawailoa Wind will provide the people of Oahu with clean, locally-produced energy for decades to come,” said Dick Rosenblum, Hawaiian Electric Company president and CEO.

Developed in concert with Kamehameha Schools (KS) as part of their North Shore Plan, Kawailoa Wind reflects a genuine collaboration with the community. The plan was completed in 2008 after nearly two years of extensive community consultation. First Wind has been discussing the project with North Shore residents and community organizations for the past three years and worked with federal, state and county agencies to obtain the necessary permits.

Kamehameha Schools senior asset manager Kapu Smith, who oversees all agricultural activities on Kamehameha’s 6,000 acres of Kawailoa farm lands, added that Kawailoa Wind provides important support to agriculture on the North Shore. “Lease rent from this project will help offset the cost of ongoing infrastructure improvements and maintenance – like water systems, roadways, fences and so forth – and enable the continuation of reasonable agricultural rent levels for existing and future tenants. These things are critical to keeping these lands available for farming.”

RMT Inc. oversaw the installation of 30 state-of-the-art Siemens turbines on the Kawailoa Wind project site. Work on the project started in December 2011 and created an average of 108 construction-related jobs while generating significant revenue for the surrounding community. The project drove nearly 220,000 on-site labor hours during construction, and dozens of Hawaii businesses were involved through development and construction supply chains.

As with its 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 Hawaii 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.