First Wind hears North Shore residents, changes turbine hauling times

Jade Eckardt

NORTH SHORE—Clean energy company First Wind, who is constructing the first wind farm Oahu has seen in over 20 years, decided on Wednesday to stop hauling wind turbine components to their Kahuku property during the day, and will now transport the cargo between the hours of 9:30 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., beginning August 13. The company has been transporting large wind turbine blades and tower components on oversized trailers through the North Shore between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m since early August, a schedule that resulted in drastic traffic jams for up to a half hour at a time between Haleiwa and Sunset Beach.

A First Wind representative said on Thursday that the day time schedule was a test transport operation, intended to familiarize the trailer drivers with the route from Kalaeloa Barbers Point Harbor to the 575-acre parcel of land in Kahuku where construction began in July.

Much to the dismay of Oahu commuters, the turbine hauling fell mid-day during prime North Shore traffic time, inconveniencing and frustrating drivers. First Wind said the test runs were coordinated with the State Department of Transportation (DOT), who required the use of oversized trailers and has now approved the evening transportation.

In a press release Thursday, First Wind stated the turbine transportation began August 6. However, North Shore residents and The Hawaii Independent witnessed the components being hauled down Kamehameha Highway several days earlier.

“Thank goodness they’re doing this. It was getting bad, I was stuck in traffic from these things two days in a row. I think everyone out here is going to be pretty happy,” said a Rocky Point resident on Friday.

Drivers at a complete stop in traffic for approximately half-an-hour on August 6 were out of their vehicles walking and standing in the middle of Kamehameha Highway, venting to others, and sitting in the back of trucks for the approximate 30 minutes the traffic was stopped between Pipeline and Shark’s Cove, and from Waimea Bay to Chun’s Reef.

Kekoa Kaluhiwa, director of external affairs for First Wind, said, “We are pleased that the test runs were successful and we thank the North Shore community for their understanding and patience with traffic disruptions.”

The turbine blades are components of the 12 2.5-MW wind turbines produced by Clipper Liberty that will help produce clean energy, all of which will go into the Oahu grid. The turbines will be constructed on property located near Charlie Road, between Kahuku Town and Turtle Bay, mauka of Kamehameha Highway on land owned by the company.

According to Kahuku Wind, construction on the farm is expected to be completed by early 2011 and will create employment opportunities for design, engineering, and construction, including approximately 200 construction jobs. Upon completion, the Kahuku Wind Project will have the capacity to generate enough renewable energy to power 7,700 Oahu homes.

First Wind is asking drivers to exercise caution when encountering the oversized trailers. The transport route begins from Kalaeloa Barbers Point Harbor proceeding east on H1; north on Kamehameha Highway to Ka Uka Boulevard; north on H2 and continuing through the North Shore to Kahuku.