Kahuku Wind’s clean energy set to enter Oahu homes in February

Jade Eckardt

HALEIWA—Kahuku Wind (KW), the first wind farm Oahu has seen in over 20 years, will be going live in February when the clean energy goes directly into the grid to Oahu’s homes and businesses. Since construction was completed on the 578-acre wind farm in September, it has been generating energy, but only to test the facility.

“We’re just testing the battery facility and blades,” said Kekoa Kaluhiwa, First Wind’s Director of External Affairs. “It should be going fully operational in February.”

Once the clean energy, which produces no pollutants or carbon emissions, goes directly into the Oahu grid, it will produce enough energy to power approximately 7,700 Oahu homes.

The Kahuku site, known as one of the windiest areas on the island, will supply approximately two to three percent of Oahu’s energy needs.

According to Kaluhiwa, First Wind had explored two other locations for their first Oahu farm, including Kaena Point. But after installing meteorological towers that measure wind speed and consistency at the Kahuku property, Kahuku proved to be the ideal location.

The 410-foot tall turbines that currently dot the property are estimated to last approximately 20 years. After that, the stainless steel, balsa wood, and fiber glass turbines that are produced in Idaho by Clipper Liberty, will be scrapped and replaced with new ones.

With the $120 million farm at max capacity with the 12 turbines, Kaluhiwa said Kahuku Wind won’t be expanding.

With the $120 million farm at max capacity with the 12 turbines, Kaluhiwa said Kahuku Wind won’t be expanding. The farm consists of 12 wind turbines, a 30-foot high microwave communication tower, and a battery energy storage system (BESS) that provides short term storage for the power.

With Kahuku Wind maxed out and a high demand for clean energy in Hawaii, First Wind is currently planning a second wind farm in the Kawailoa area on land leased from Kamehameha Schools.

Kaluhiwa explained that First Wind has purchased the rights to a wind farm on the land that had previously planned to work with Kamehamhea Schools to construct a clean energy farm on the site. The clean energy farm will be located approximately one mile mauka of Kamehameha Highway, and will have 30 wind turbines that are estimated to have the capacity to service approximately 15,000 homes.

According to First Wind representative Wren Wescoatt , the turbines at the Kawailoa site will be of “slightly smaller capacity than the turbines in Kahuku.” The turbine blades in Kahuku measure up to about 15 feet each. The Kahuku site has a 2.3 MW capacity.

“Kahuku Wind is great, but it only scratches the surface of the amount of energy we use on Oahu,” Wescoatt told The Hawaii Independent in December. “[Kahuku Wind] provides two to four percent of the energy on Oahu, and the Kawailoa sight will produce more.”

In March of last year, Kamehameha Schools offered First Wind a location on their Kawailoa property to place a 220-foot high tower as part of a communication system for Kahuku Wind. Wescoatt said Kamehameha Schools was happy to open the land to First Wind in support of renewable energy.

Under the energy agreement signed between the State of Hawaii and Hawaiian Electric in October 2008 as part of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI), Hawaiian Electric committed to increasing renewable energy statewide by 1,100 megawatts by 2030. The HCEI is the driving force behind wind farms throughout Hawaii, and wind farms can now be found on Hawaii Island, Maui and Oahu. Both Molokai and Lanai are currently being looked at for locations for wind farms.

The HCEI, while well-intended, has also been a driving force of tension with Hawaii residents regarding wind farms.

In the development phases of Kahuku Wind, Oahu residents were concerned about the farm being located too close to their homes, thus decreasing their property value, and being an eyesore. In August 2010, North Shore residents complained about the bumper-to-bumper traffic caused as turbine parts were being transported to the Kahuku Wind site for construction. Kahuku wind ultimately changed the transport times to avoid rush-hour traffic in the area.

And currently on Lanai, residents are rallying against plans by the Castle and Cooke development company to build a 400 MW industrial wind power plant that would build 200 wind turbines, each at a height of 410 feet. A group called Friends of Lanai said the wind power plant will permanently alter, possibly destroy, and disfigure one-quarter of the island. The group also pointed to the environmental impacts of the wind farm and connecting cable to Oahu on endangered birds and the humpback whales, desecration of the landscape, and the disruption of the social fabric from the incoming workforce who will manage the windmills.

As the most fossil fuel dependent state in the nation, Hawaii is four times more dependent on oil than any other state. While Hawaii’s communities debate the most appropriate ways to move away from oil, there are still things we can currently do to reduce our energy use.


The HCEI website offers tips on how to cut down on energy usage at home:

Hot Water

* Turn down the temperature of your electric water heater to the warm setting (120°F).
* Install a low-flow showerhead and take short showers instead of baths.
* Wash only full loads of clothes and use cold water whenever possible.
* Fully load your dishwasher before running it and air-dry dishes instead of using the drying cycle.


* Limit the amount of time you keep the refrigerator door open and avoid opening the oven door while baking so your kitchen appliances don’t have to work so hard to get the job done.
* Make sure your refrigerator door seals are airtight. Test them by closing the door over a piece of paper so it’s half in and half out of the refrigerator. If you can pull the paper or bill out easily, the seal may need replacing, or you might consider buying a new Energy Star unit. To check newer magnetic door seals for leaks, check with the manufacturer.
* Don’t keep your refrigerator or freezer too cold. Recommended temperatures are 37° to 40°F for the fresh food compartment of the refrigerator and 5°F for the freezer section. If you have a separate freezer for long-term storage, it should be kept at 0°F.


* Use ceiling fans and natural ventilation instead of air-conditioning. The cooling cross-breezes of Hawaii’s trade winds can save a lot of energy.
* If it’s time to purchase a new air-conditioner, consider buying an Energy Star model and be sure it’s the right size unit for your home. Hawaiian Electric Company’s online tool can help you select the ideal size for optimal cooling.
* Install your air-conditioning unit on the north side of the house if possible or surround it with shrubs and other landscaping that shade it from the sun without blocking the airflow.

Clothes Drying

* Hang clean laundry outdoors on a rack or line to dry naturally in the fresh breeze and sunshine.
* Don’t over-dry your clothes. If your machine has a moisture sensor, use it.
* Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight clothes.

Cut Phantom Loads

* Plug home electronics into smart power strips, which will eliminate “phantom loads” from home electronics and phone chargers. These phantom loads can account for as much as 15 percent of your energy bill.


* Switch from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) with the ENERGY STAR label. CFLs use 75 percent less energy and last up to 10 times longer. By replacing just one 100-watt light bulb that’s turned on six hours a day, you can save about $50 a year.
* Because outdoor lights are usually left on a long time, using CFLs in these fixtures will save a lot of energy. Most bare spiral CFLs can be used in enclosed fixtures that protect them from the weather.
* Installing solar lighting outside your home is quick and easy with an added bonus—no wires or electricity costs.

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