Hawaii’s largest wind project is in the works
First Wind, an independent U.S.-based wind energy company, celebrated the start of construction of its 69 megawatt (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 thirty 2.3 MW Siemens wind turbines will have the capacity to generate enough clean, renewable wind energy to power the equivalent of approximately 14,500 homes on the island, or as much as 5 percent 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 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.
Working in concert with the Kamehameha Schools (KS) as part of their North Shore Plan, Kawailoa Wind reflects a genuine 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 Hawaii’s 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.