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South Kohala wind farm could restart

Next week, area residents will have a chance to weigh in on plans to re-power a wind farm in South Kohala.

The estimated $13 million project at the Lalamilo Wind Farm would generate renewable energy to power the County of Hawaii Department of Water Supply’s (DWS) operation of eight existing water wells. Those wells provide capacity of up to 5 million gallons per day, said Quinino Antonio Jr., manager and chief engineer at the DWS.

The previous wind farm, constructed in the mid-1980s, featured a total of 120 wind turbines generating 2.7 megawatts, but was decommissioned in 2010 in anticipation of repowering the site with newer, more efficient technology. The new project would install five Vestas V47-600 kilwatt wind turbine generators and accompanying facilities. Total generating capacity is anticipated to be 3.3 megawatts (MW).

Currently, the water department pays Hawaii Electric Light Co. 40 cents per kilowatt hour for more than 10 million kilowatt hours of energy to power the wells each year. With the 3.3 MW capacity, the new farm would generate between 75 and 80 percent of the department’s energy demands for the pumping process, saving water customers approximately $1 million a year.

Lalamilo Wind Co. LLC has been awarded the contract to design, build and operate the wind farm and associated facilities. The company would then sell the generated power back to the water department.

“This is really a win-win from our perspective, and from our customers’ perspective,” Antonio said in an interview Thursday. “With this project, they’ll be able to sell the power back to us at a lower rate, and the savings would be passed on to our customers right off the bat. The savings will be immediate.”

Antonio estimated Lalamilo would be paid 24 cents per kilowatt hour. The power purchase agreement with the company is for 20 years. The estimated useful lifespan of the turbines is more than 40 years.

According to the draft environmental assessment, which was filed with the Office of Environmental Quality Control last month, construction would begin after approval of the environmental assessment, and approval of construction permits. Work would continue for 18 months. Commercial operation of the project could begin in the first quarter of 2015.

Officials are asking the public to submit comments at a meeting to be held Wednesday from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at Kanu o ka ‘Aina Learning ‘Ohana at 64-1043 Hi‘iaka St., Halau Ho’olako in Kamuela.

Area residents may also submit testimony directly to Senior Project Manager Leilani Pulmano at Tetra Tech Inc., 737 Bishop St., Suite 2340, Honolulu, HI 96813 or via email at leilani.pulmano@tetratech.com.