By Wendy Osher
A groundbreaking ceremony was held today for the 21-megawatt Auwahi Windfarm now under construction in Ulupalakua on Maui.
Officials with Sempra US Gas & Power say construction will create about 150 construction jobs, with five positions to remain in place for the operation of the facility.
“We’re really excited to have finally reached this point,” said Scott Crider, Sempra spokesperson.
“We’ve been developing Auwahi Wind for several years now, and we’re just so excited to have so many dignitaries and special guests that have been part of the planning process, the review process, and to finally reach this point, we’re just really excited to be here,” said Crider.
When finished in late 2012, the windfarm will generate enough electricity to power approximately 10,000 typical Maui homes. Supporters of the project say it will also help Hawaii reach its goal of securing 40% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.
“It’s going to provide clean, emission-free electricity that’s good for the environment; and as important, it’s going to provide a stable and predictable cost of electricity to residents,” said Crider.
Part of the Auwahi Wind farm project is a battery unit component that will enable the storage of up to 4.4 megawatt-hours of power generated by the wind turbines durign the windy morning and night time hours.
The stored power, company officials say, will help regulate and smooth intermittent wind power, providing a valuable source of grid stability to Maui Electric Company.
The wind power from Auwahi Wind is being sold to Maui Electric Company under a 20-year contract.
A total of eight wind turbines are being constructed on ranch land located on the lower slopes of Ulupalakua Ranch on the southeast coast of the island.
“Our turbine size is almost double of what some of the other turbines are on the island. We did that for a couple of reasons: (1), it reduces the cost for construction when you only have to install eight turbines instead of 16, that certainly helps to reduce your overall costs; (2) but it also reduces the amount of traffic impacts on the community. These are very, very large facilities that need to be trucked in, so we’ll be able to reduce traffic impacts of those very large trucks by 50%,” said Crider.
Sempra will be improving Papaka Road that extends from Makena to Ulupalakua. The road will be used to transport the large segments of the turbines for the project.
“The turbine components are being shipped to Maui and are expected to arrive in the first three weeks of August. Once construction gets going, we’ll be able to finish this project by the end of this year,” said Crider.
Ulupalakua Ranch entered into a partnership with the Hawaii Land Trust, and put 11,000 acres into an agricultural conservation easement. “Our goals are to keep open space, and protect open space and agriculutre. The economics of doing that sometimes are a little bit tough; and this partnership will allow us to be able to manage and maintain open space,” said Sumner Erdman, owner of Ulupalakua Ranch.
“It’s an incredibly important partnership for that. It’s also important for the people of Maui. It means fewer barrels of oil having to be shipped in and the potential risk of having an oil spill hurting our reefs. It makes us a little less dependent on foreign oil, and the rising cost of foreign oil,” said Erdman.
In addition to being a leading developer of renewable energy and natural gas solutions, Sempra US Gas & Power operates solar, wind and natural gas power plants across the nation.
“Today, we pick up this ʻōʻō. We want to plant seeds. We hope that this seed will grow tall and strong–these windmills will grow tall and strong, and bear fruit for our community–a sustainable fruit to rid us of all of this oil, and hopefully we can use the natural resources which are on Maui to sustain our living. Hopefully this will lay a foundation for the next sustainable project,” said Kahu Dane Maxwell.