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