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by Ku‘ulei Funn, Science & Environment editor


According to the Maui News, the Keheawa wind farm which sells eight mega watts of power it generates to Maui Electric Company should produce about 8 percent of Maui’s electricity needs to meet the goal set for 2006. Plans are for MECO to reduce its fossil fuels generated energy by at least 15 percent by the year 2015, which will meet Lingle’s standard.

The wind farm will not only encourage others to develop renewable energy, but it will also reduce the Maui’s dependence on oil. According to the Keheawa Web site, the plant estimates that it will eliminate the use of 244,000 barrels of oil per year through energy produced by wind power instead of fossil fuels. This saves island residents about $10 million a year on imported oil surcharges.

Kent Smith, a co-developer of Kaheawa, told the Maui News that the energy used from the plant could save each of the 40,000 households at least $120 a year on their electricity bill, if oil is at least $60 a barrel.

In July, the Honolulu Advertiser reported that the wind turbines, which began producing electricity in June, had already saved Maui Electric (MECO) 10,000 barrels of oil.

According to the Keheawa Web site, the plant sells its wind power to MECO for eight cents per kilowatt hour. MECO’s residential rate for fossil fueled power is 20.85 cents per kilowatt hour. If the plant can sustain a regular output, and if oil prices continue to rise, savings could add up to a lot more.

The wind farm consists of 20 wind turbines lined in a single row at an elevation between 2,000 to 3,200 feet in the west Maui Mountains, in a place referred to as Kaheawa Pastures. Winds at the site are constant at an average of 20 mph, which will maintain a regular power output. Of course, if there is no wind, no power can be generated; but according to developers they’re confident in their selection of Keheawa.

The towers are 180 feet tall and have 117 foot-long-rotors that are painted white. Some residents of the area complain that the towers are ruining their view of the mountains; however, the color was chosen to protect the area’s endangered wildlife which includes the nene and the hawaiian hoary bat.
The towers may pollute the view, but the power generated contributes to a cleaner atmosphere. Because of the reduction in the use of fossil fuels, the wind plant estimates that it will eliminate the annual emission of 170 million pounds of carbon dioxide, 1.3 million pounds of sulfur dioxide, and 354, 000 pounds of nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere.

HECO has been monitoring Kahe Ridge above its Nanakuli power plant for a potential wind farm. The farm could consist of 24 to 26 wind turbines that could generate up to 39 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 15,000 homes, or all of Mililani and Makaiwa Hills combined.

For more information, and to express your ideas and concerns about renewable energy on the island of O‘ahu, go to www.heco.com.



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