Thursday, March 24, 2011

Oahu Greets First New Wind Farm in a Generation

Looking at the recent progress in wind energy development in the Hawaiian Islands, it seems odd that the most “recent” wind farm dedication on Oahu was 25 years ago this month.

The occasion was the official start-up of Hawaiian Electric Industries’ 15-turbine farm in the hills above Kahuku. The farm's construction began in 1985, and the 15 Westinghouse turbines were plainly visible from Kamehameha Highway and the Turtle Bay Resort.

So was their failure. The turbines deteriorated rapidly in the North Shore’s caustic elements. Blades were thrown, gears failed and it wasn’t long before some of the towers were missing their nacelle. Eventually, they all came down, including the world’s largest wind turbine that was later erected nearby.

But that was then. The welcome mat is out for a new generation of wind turbines (above) that will be dedicated today above Kahuku to power about 7,500 homes.

First Wind is extending its industry savvy in Hawaii conditions gained on Maui. The farm has 30 megawatts of capacity as well as a 10-megawatt battery storage system.

The expectation is that this farm will be much more resilient than the original Westinghouse installation and that we may see another farm on Oahu within 25 months, not 25 years. It’s going to take that kind of progress from wind and other forms of renewable energy if Hawaii has any hope of slashing its debilitating dependence on oil.

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