Improvements, but not an increase in wind turbines, are coming to the Hawi Energy wind farm at Upolu Point as the company proposes a 20-year extension to its power purchase agreement with Hawaiian Electric Co.
Hawi Renewable Development LLC has scheduled an online community meeting about the improvements, set for 5:30-6:30 p.m. Wednesday. To register, visit https://hawienergy.com .
North Kohala Councilman Tim Richards welcomes the expansion project. He said Hawi Energy has been a “good neighbor,” and an “obvious partner” in Hawaiian Electric’s efforts to build a micro-grid to service Kohala. Currently, Richards said, there’s only one connection to the islandwide electric grid, leaving Kohala vulnerable should the line go down.
“We need all the different forms of energy generation in our portfolio because they all have their strengths and weaknesses,” Richards said Monday. “I’m very supportive of them going forward. They run a very clean operation.”
The wind farm, 16 turbines with a 10.56 MW capacity on 250 acres of an active cattle ranch, currently powers more than 2,100 homes. It started operations in 2006 at a construction cost of $20 million.
“The continued operation of the Hawi Wind Farm is important and beneficial for our island and our state,” Richard Horn, manager of Hawi Renewable Development LLC, said in a statement. “By extending the term of the power purchase agreement, the Hawi Wind Farm will help reduce Big Island electric bills for the ratepayers, will contribute to economic growth and jobs for the community and will continue to help the state achieve its renewable energy goals.”
The improvements will not increase the number of turbines, turbine height or blades, officials say. Existing generators, gearboxes and blades will be refurbished and rehabilitated to extend useful life for an additional 20 years. New transformers will be installed at each generator and the on-site substation will be upgraded.
Instead, work will consist of installing new substation equipment that regulates voltage, installing and programming new electronic monitoring and control equipment, installing a new transformer for each turbine and making miscellaneous repairs to the turbines, as needed.
An estimated 20 to 30 jobs will be created during the equipment upgrade process, officials said. Currently, there are four full-time staff, including one charged with the cattle ranch operation.
The proposed 20-year power purchase agreement with HECO will provide energy pricing below the cost of oil, rather than the previous convention of tying renewable energy costs to the price of oil. It must be approved by the state Public Utilities Commission.
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