(Honolulu, Hawaii) – The Hawai‘i Public Utilities Commission has approved an agreement between First Wind and Hawaiian Electric Company for the utility to purchase renewable energy produced by the proposed 69-megawatt (MW) Kawailoa Wind project on Oahu’s North Shore.
"This project is significant as we continue down the path of greater energy independence and away from our reliance on expensive imported oil," said Governor Neil Abercrombie. "I appreciate the commitment that Kamehameha Schools and the North Shore community have made to move Oahu in the direction of harnessing our renewable energy. This was a collaborative effort and I congratulate First Wind and Hawaiian Electric for successfully negotiating this agreement and the Public Utilities Commission and Consumer Advocate for approving it in a timely manner."
Under the contract, Kawailoa Wind Power, a subsidiary of Massachusetts-based First Wind, will sell as-available renewable energy to Hawaiian Electric at pre-determined prices over 20 years, providing a valuable hedge against fluctuating oil prices.
The Kawailoa Wind project will be built on former Kawailoa Plantation land, mauka of Kamehameha Highway above Haleiwa, Oahu owned by Kamehameha Schools. It will employ 30 Siemens SWT-2.3-101 wind turbines, each able to generate up to 2.3 MW. The turbines have a strong performance track record with more than 3,500 installed globally, and meet the technical requirements of the Hawaiian Electric grid.
When completed, Kawailoa Wind will be the largest wind energy project in the state, able to generate clean, renewable energy equivalent to that needed to power approximately 14,500 Oahu homes. The project is scheduled to begin construction this month and is expected to be operating by the end of 2012.
First Wind has been in discussions about the project with North Shore residents and community organizations for the past two years and has worked with landowner Kamehameha Schools and with federal, state, and county agencies to obtain 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.
"This wind project, along with the expansion of HPOWER and added solar power, will help free our customers from the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices. It is further evidence that we are doing all we can to tap the renewable energy available on Oahu, which has the greatest electricity demand in the state, but fewer viable resources than the neighbor islands," said Robbie Alm, Hawaiian Electric executive vice president.
“Once again, it is a pleasure to work with Hawaiian Electric and the people of Oahu to help deliver clean, renewable wind energy and reduce Hawaii’s reliance on imported fossil fuels for its electricity needs,” said Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind. “Our Kawailoa project will be the biggest step yet towards helping Hawaii meet its clean energy goals. We’re proud to be a part of Hawaii’s successful effort.”
First Wind also owns and operates two other wind energy projects in Hawaii. Opened in 2006, the 30 MW Kaheawa wind energy project above Ma’alaea, Maui provides up to 9 percent of the electricity distributed by Maui Electric Company and is in the process of expansion. Kahuku Wind Power on Oahu’s North Shore is also a 30 MW wind project that generates energy equivalent to the power for 7,700 Oahu homes. The Kahuku project opened in March of 2011.
About First Wind
First Wind is an independent wind energy company exclusively focused on the development, financing, construction, ownership and operation of utility-scale wind projects in the United States. Based in Boston, First Wind has wind projects in the Northeast, the West and in Hawaii, with the capacity to generate up to 735504 megawatts of power and another 141 MW of projects in construction. For more information on First Wind, please visit www.firstwind.com or follow us on Twitter @FirstWind.
About Hawaiian Electric Company
Hawaiian Electric Company and its subsidiaries, Maui Electric Company and Hawaii Electric Light Company, serve more than 400,000 customers on the islands of Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, Lanai and Molokai, home to 95% of Hawaii’s people. It is a subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Industries (NYSE: HE). For more information, visit www.heco.com.