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.
A wind farm has been paid £1.2 million not to produce electricity for eight-and-a-half hours.
By Edward Malnick and Robert Mendick
9:00PM BST 17 Sep 2011
The amount is ten times greater than the wind farm’s owners would have received had they actually generated any electricity.
The disclosure exposes the bizarre workings of Britain’s electricity supply, prompting calls last night for an official investigation into the payments system.
The £1.2 million will go to a Norwegian company which owns 60 turbines in the Scottish Borders.
The National Grid asked the company, Fred Olsen Renewables, to shut down its Crystal Rig II wind farm last Saturday for a little over eight hours amid fears the electricity network would become overloaded.
The problem was caused by high winds buffeting the country in the wake of Hurricane Katia.
In total, 11 wind farms were closed down last week, receiving a total of £2.6 million. The money – detailed in calculations provided by National Grid – will be added on to household bills and paid for by consumers.
As Britain pushes for more and more wind farms, critics claim the size of the ‘constraint payments’ will grow accordingly – raising serious concern about the long-term suitability of wind power to meet Britain’s energy needs.
Crystal Rig received by far the largest single payment because the National Grid runs an auction, inviting energy companies to say how much they want in compensation for switching off.
Crystal Rig’s owners asked for £999 per megawatt hour of energy they would have produced had they been switched on. Incredibly, the figure Crystal Rig had bid was accepted by the National Grid.
Six birds found dead recently in Southern California’s Tehachapi Mountains were majestic golden eagles. But some bird watchers say that in an area where dozens of wind turbines slice the air they were also sitting ducks.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating to determine what killed the big raptors, and declined to divulge the conditions of the remains. But the likely cause of death is no mystery to wildlife biologists who say they were probably clipped by the blades of some of the 80 wind turbines at the three-year-old Pine Tree Wind Farm Project, operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
As the Obama administration pushes to develop enough wind power to provide 20 percent of America’s energy by 2030, some bird advocates worry that the grim discovery of the eagles this month will be a far more common occurrence.
Windmills kill nearly half a million birds a year, according to a Fish and Wildlife estimate. The American Bird Conservancy projected that the number could more than double in 20 years if the administration realizes its goal for wind power.
First Wind LLC said it has temporarily idled the turbines at its Kahuku wind energy project while it works on the battery storage system.
The 12 wind turbines were shut down on May 22 and are expected to be brought back online in stages starting later this week, company spokesman John Lamontagne said in an email from the company’s headquarters in Massachusetts.
“We are conducting a diligent and thorough review of the operating issues for the battery facility at the Kahuku project. During that time, the project is offline,” he said.
The 30-megawatt project — Oahu’s only commercial-scale wind farm — began feeding electricity into Hawaiian Electric Co.’s grid in March. The turbines produce enough energy to power about 7,700 homes, according to First Wind. First Wind sells the electricity to HECO at a fixed price of 19.9 cents per kilowatt-hour under a 20-year purchase power agreement.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie would – if necessary – have the state exercise its right to eminent domain to condemn Molokai lands for a wind-energy project, “if residents agree that a project can be done in a pono way.”
The governor’s comment is contained in a March 3 position statement on a potential Molokai wind farm when it looked like First Wind and Molokai Properties were going to be unable to reach a deal on a wind-energy project for the island. After that happened, the landowner announced that it was teaming up with a new company, San Francisco-based Pattern Energy Group, to proceed with the project.
The governor’s spokeswoman, Donalyn Dela Cruz, said Friday that the use of the state’s power to condemn property on Molokai looks moot because there now appears to be a wind-energy project moving forward.
However, “we are watching closely to see what happens,” she said.
The governor’s position statement on the Molokai wind farm project seeks a middle ground between Abercrombie’s support for alternative-energy projects and his desire to be sensitive to the community and its needs.
“Producing our own energy in Hawaii is crucial for our survival,” Abercrombie said in his position statement. “The proposed ‘Big Wind’ project that would produce electricity on Lanai and Molokai can be a crucial part of the equation.
Sempra Generation has signed a 20-year contract to sell wind energy to Maui Electric Co. from Sempra’s 21-megawatt Auwahi Wind project on the Ulupalakua Ranch in the southeastern region of Maui.
Sempra said it expects to begin construction on Auwahi Wind in early 2012, creating about 150 local construction jobs at peak and about five positions to operate the facility. The project is currently undergoing an environmental review by Maui County, and state and federal agencies.
When fully operational in late 2012, Auwahi Wind will be capable of generating enough energy to power 10,000 typical Maui homes, the company said.
The project will have a battery storage unit could store as much as 12 megawatt-hours of wind energy generated by the project’s wind turbines. The stored power will help to smooth the fluctuations normally associated with wind power.
The contract between Maui Electric Company and Sempra Generation is subject to approval by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.
Maui already has 51 megawatts of generating capacity from the Kaheawa I and Kaheawa II wind projects developed by First Wind LLC on a ridge above Maalaea.
Some South Maui residents are upset about a developer’s plan to use a resort road through Wailea and Makena for construction truck access as it builds a wind farm on 120 acres of Ulupalakua Ranch land.
“It’s going to affect us economically,” said Bud Pikrone, general manager of the Wailea Community Association.
Pikrone said developer Auwahi Wind Energy LLC’s activities will create noise in a hotel and residential resort area and cause wear and tear on the roads.
Pikrone said in the last seven years, Wailea Alanui Road has had three sinkholes, including one that closed off an area for 18 months.
He said various large landowners plan to hold a meeting with Auwahi Wind next month to discuss rerouting the truck traffic farther mauka and closer to Piilani Highway.
“We’re hoping we can come up with some resolution,” Pikrone said.
The Maui County Planning Commission held a public hearing Tuesday to review Auwahi Wind’s draft environmental impact statement.
Auwahi Wind needs the commission to accept its environmental impact statement before moving to seek land-use permits.
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
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service Hawaii Field Office (NASS), Hawaii ranked third highest in the nation in terms of the number of farms and ranches producing on-farm renewable energy. With a total of 8,569 farms nationally reporting solar panels, wind turbines, and/or methane digesters, Hawaii’s 522 reporting farms came in third behind Texas and California. Hawaii farms producing renewable energy saved an average of $2,125 on their 2009 utility bills, the 11th highest in the nation but slightly less than the national average of $2,406.
Hawaii ranked second in the nation in terms of number of solar panels located on farms and third in terms of number of farms with either photovoltaic and/or thermal solar panels. Of the reported 7,477 solar panels on farms throughout the State, 56 percent were installed between 2005 and 2009.
Hawaii ranked seventh in terms of number of small wind turbines producing energy on farms, turbines rated at a 1-100kw. Forty-three farms reported a total of 67 turbines, 42 percent which were installed over the last five years between 2005 and 2009.