A solar energy project that supplies Lanai with 10 percent of its electricity needs recently began operating at full capacity after a battery system was installed to better integrate the renewable power into the small island electrical grid.
The La Ola photovoltaic solar project, owned by Castle & Cooke, has a maximum output of 1.5 megawatts of direct current, or 1.2 megawatts of after converting the power to alternating current for household use.
Since launch of the La Ola project in December 2008 its output had been restricted because officials were concerned that the power fluctuations associated with solar energy might damage the electrical grid. To address the issue Castle & Cooke installed a battery back-up system developed by Xtreme Power to smooth out the volatility of the solar energy. Completion of the battery installation, orignally scheduled for last summer, was delayed due to technical issues.
When operating at full power the La Ola project has the largest percentage of solar energy penetration of any independent island grid in the world, according to Castle & Cooke.
WAILUKU – The Maui Planning Commission unanimously approved permits Tuesday for Auwahi Wind Energy to build and operate eight 428-foot-tall wind turbines on Ulupalakua Ranch land.
Two dozen people testified on the proposed special use and special management area permits, and none were opposed to the project, according to planner Ann Cua. Some testifiers shared concerns about traffic, safety and visual impacts of the wind farm.
The project would have the capacity to generate 21 megawatts, which would be enough power to supply electricity to 10,000 homes. The $140 million project’s infrastructure includes an energy storage system; a 9-mile, 34.5-kilovolt power line; an interconnection substation; a microwave communication tower; and a construction access road. Each generator pad would require about 2.4 acres of cleared area, while the entire project would cover 1,466 acres, almost entirely on Ulupalakua Ranch land.
The project aims to provide power for Maui island only. It is not part of the “Big Wind” project, which calls for wind farms on Lanai and Molokai to provide power to Oahu via an underwater cable.
Commission members attached conditions to Auwahi’s permits, including one that requires Auwahi Wind, a division of Sempra, to work with the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and Ka Ohana O Kahikinui Inc. to develop a community benefits package. The groups would develop a plan and sign a memorandum of agreement addressing the roadway improvement and other needs of the Kahikinui homestead community.
The project area contains more than 1,100 archaeological features on 174 sites, and the developer has designed the turbines and power lines to avoid culturally sensitive burials and heiau.
Hawaiian Electric Co. has selected Pacific Biodiesel Inc. to supply locally produced biodiesel for an emergency power generation system at Honolulu International Airport.
Maui-based Pacific Biodiesel will provide HECO with at least 250,000 gallons of made from locally recycled cooking oil under the three-year contract, the companies said. The biodiesel will be burned in an 8-megawatt generating station scheduled to be completed in October 2010.
The four generating units at the facility will feed electricity into the HECO grid during normal operations, but will be isolated to power the airport exclusively during an emergency, HECO said.
With the launch of Oahu’s first commercially viable wind farm behind them, proponents of wind power will now try to replicate the feat on Lanai and Molokai, where larger-scale wind projects face far greater community opposition.
The first trickle of wind-generated electricity began flowing to the Hawaiian Electric Co. grid last week from 12 wind turbines at a 30-megawatt facility in Kahuku developed by Boston-based First Wind LLC. Gov. Neil Abercrombie, the First Wind CEO, the head of the Public Utilities Commission, Kahuku community leaders and even musician Jack Johnson gathered under a tent in the wind-swept foothills of the Koolau Mountains to celebrate the occasion.
Although the wind farm will provide just a small fraction of Oahu’s peak electricity demand, Abercrombie and others heralded the Kahuku project as an important step in Hawaii’s pursuit of energy independence.
To make wind a much bigger part of the electric grid in Hawaii, state officials and HECO are leading an effort to develop larger wind farms on Lanai and Molokai that would send electricity to Oahu via undersea cables. The proposal for 400 megawatts of generating capacity split between Lanai and Molokai, combined with wind and solar energy generated on Oahu could provide 25 percent of the island’s power needs
WAILUKU – Maui planning commissioners Tuesday praised a proposed wind farm as a “wonderful, wonderful project” but raised doubts about getting the massive equipment to the remote location on the southwest flank of Haleakala between two sections of the Auwahi native plant restoration area.
The commission was commenting on a draft environmental impact statement for Sempra Energy’s proposed wind project at Ulupalakua.
Worries about losing the last highway ocean views to what Chairman Jonathan Starr called “pole land” also came up Tuesday. But the wind farm itself was warmly received, with Starr wishing only that it could be bigger than the 21 megawatts proposed.
Pardee Erdman, of Ulupalakua Ranch, which will lease nearly 1,500 acres to Sempra, called the project “a win-win for the ranch.” He said the infrastructure needed to transport heavy turbines and lengthy vanes will “make that land more productive than it is today,” although he added, “We are going to continue raising cattle.”
Maui Electric Co. has contracted to begin purchasing wind electricity from the project a year from now.
But developers still have to obtain many permits before they can proceed, including a special management area permit for parts of the project makai of the road to Kahikinui.
HONOLULU (AP) – Crops grown on the Big Island will be converted into liquid fuel as part of a deal between Hawaiian Electric Co. and renewable energy company Aina Koa Pono.
The agreement is the first in Hawaii to produce enough biofuel for use in power plants, where it will be converted to electricity.
By 2015, the 13,000-acre energy farm is projected to produce about 16 percent of the Big Island’s energy supply.
Power users on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island would pay about one-third of a cent per kilowatt hour extra to fund the accord, or about $1.86 per month for a typical residential consumer.
The cost hike would have to be approved by state regulators.
The deal is part of the state’s goal to get 40 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030
The Hawaii County Department of Water Supply is considering building a wind farm to power its South Kohala wells.
The department would lease about 80 acres of state land next to its Lalamilo wells and have a developer build the wind mills.
The project would create 50 construction jobs and three permanent jobs.
Department energy management analyst Julie Myhre says a wind farm built on the site in the mid-1980s has been decommissioned and the site has been cleaned up.
West Hawaii Today reported Monday the wind farm would save about $500,000 a year in electricity costs for the next 20 years.
A department spokeswoman says it’s too early to tell if the facility would generate excess energy to sell to Hawaii Electric Light Co.
KALAMAULA, Molokai – Sunlight will be providing the power needed to run lights, electronics and air conditioning at the Nature Conservancy’s office on Molokai beginning Wednesday, the environmental organization announced.
Rising Sun Solar of Maui installed the office’s 8.88-kilowatt photovoltaic array on the roof of the building in the Molokai Industrial Park on the hot and sunny leeward side.
“We were able to basically cover all of our energy needs and put a cap on our energy costs into the future,” said Suzanne Case, the conservancy’s Hawaii executive director. “It’s good for Hawaii both economically and in terms of sustainability.”
Tapping into sun power will help with the organization’s energy costs on Molokai, which has some of the highest electrical rates in the nation, according to Matias Besasso, a partner with Rising Sun Solar.
“Not only can it reduce costs, but it can lead to job creation and greater energy independence and self-sufficiency for Molokai’s people,” he said.
The conservancy’s Molokai director, Ed Misaki, said the solar energy system has been planned for three years.
“Going green is one of our big goals,” he said.
HONOLULU – Kaheawa Wind Power II’s draft habitat conservation plan and environmental assessment are available for public review, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday.
Kaheawa Wind Power is a subsidiary of the Boston-based wind energy company First Wind, which already supplies windmill-generated electricity to Maui Electric Co.
Kaheawa Wind developed the draft habitat conservation plan in coordination with the service and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources as part of an application for an incidental take permit for endangered species.
The draft plan and environmental assessment are available for public review and comment for 30 days.
The Board of Land and Natural Resources will hear public testimony on the lease and grant of easement of public lands for Kaheawa Wind’s expansion beginning at 9 a.m. Friday at the county Department of Planning conference room at 250 S. High St. in Wailuku.
An incidental take permit is required when a development is likely to result in some harm to a threatened or endangered species. If approved, the permit would be in effect for 20 years.