Maui - Kaheawa wind turbines top expectations

It is estimated that 125,000 MW-hours of wind energy displaced more than 236,000 barrels of petroleum

In its first full calendar year of making electricity, the Kaheawa Wind Farm produced 9.8 percent of the electricity Maui Electric Co. sold. That was more than 125,000 megawatt-hours, slightly more than forecast at the start of 2007. Michael Alvarez, executive vice president and chief operating officer of owner UPC Wind, said Thursday that there is a savings to the utility, and to its customers.

“Since it achieved commercial operations (in mid-2006), the project has sold all of its output to Maui Electric Co. at rates that will save the utility over $4 million annually as compared to current avoided cost contracts,” he said. Most of MECO’s electricity comes from oil, and UPC estimated that 125,000 MW-hours of wind energy displaced more than 236,000 barrels of petroleum. MECO figures somewhat less, because it has to keep some standby units spinning to take care of fluctuations from the wind farm, especially when winds are gusty and flukey.

MECO spokeswoman Kaui Awai-Dickson said the utility did not have an exact estimate but that the utility would consider the displacement of oil at a lower figure. Wind (and electricity from burning bagasse that MECO buys from Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.) helps Maui’s utility toward the state-mandated goal of 20 percent renewable energy by 2020. UPC says displacing oil also reduced emissions by more than 91,000 tons of carbon dioxide, 440 tons of nitrogen oxides and 377 tons of sulfur dioxide. The wind energy was enough to supply 11,000 homes.

Even though the wind farm exceeded expectations in 2007, Alvarez said the company is not raising its output goals for 2008. The overage last year was not large, and overall the wind regime was close to predictions. Those were based on studies of wind done in order to obtain permits to build on the slopes above Maalaea. Some months of 2007 were over predictions, some under, said Alvarez, but overall it was about as expected.

Kaheawa is the state’s first and still the largest successful commercial wind farm. It has been so successful that UPC has plans to increase the maximum output from 30 megawatts to 51 MW. Although it has not yet gotten permits for the expansion or concluded a purchased power agreement with MECO, Alvarez says it has already bought the new machines. UPC also has wind farm ventures on Molokai, Oahu and Kauai in the works. Kaheawa also has a Habitat Conservation Plan that requires it to contribute at least $1 million to preserve rare native wildlife and plants.
Kaheawa Wind Energy
Trevor Sievert, Online Editorial Journalist
wind energy, wind farm, renewable energy, wind power, wind turbine, rotorblade, offshore, onshore

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