PUC Approves Maui Electric, Sempra Wind Contract

June 16, 2011, 1:17 PM HST · Updated June 16, 5:12 PM
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Auwahi Wind Project simulated view by Tetra Tech EC, Inc., courtesy Draft EIS. File photo.

By Sonia Isotov

The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission has approved a 20-year contract for Maui Electric Company to purchase 21 megawatts (MW) of wind power from Sempra Generation’s Auwahi Wind project on the Ulupalakua Ranch.

The project, which still needs environmental review approvals from Maui County, State of Hawaii and federal agencies, is set to begin construction as early as 2012, according to a written statement released by Sempra Generation today.

Construction is expected to take about one year, and create approximately 150 construction jobs at peak and five full-time positions to operate the facility.

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“Approval of this contract with Maui Electric Company is a major milestone for Sempra Generation as we continue working with local communities to develop Auwahi Wind,” said Jeffrey W. Martin, president and chief executive officer of Sempra Generation, in the statement. “We look forward to starting construction on this landmark wind project that will deliver a new supply of clean, renewable power to Maui residents and reduce the region’s reliance on volatile sources of imported energy.”

“We welcome approval of Sempra’s Auwahi project. It will help us reach Hawaii’s aggressive renewable energy goals and help keep historic Ulupalakua Ranch as a vital and successful partner in the Maui community,” said Ed Reinhardt, president of Maui Electric Company, in the statement as well. “This new wind farm will join existing wind power, biomass and biofuel, customer-sited solar, hydro and in the future we hope ocean energy to supply Maui with one of the highest percentages of renewable energy in Hawaii and the world,” Reinhardt said.  

When fully operational, Auwahi Wind will reportedly be capable of generating enough electricity to power the equivalent of 10,000 typical Maui homes.

An important component of Auwahi Wind is a battery storage unit capable of storing electricity generated by the project’s wind turbines during the typically windy morning and night hours.  This stored power will help to regulate and smooth intermittent wind power, providing a valuable source of grid stability for Maui Electric.

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