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
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.