PHOTOS: Blessing Marks Completion of Maui’s Auwahi Wind Farm
By Wendy Osher
A blessing ceremony was held today, marking the completion of the 21-megawatt Auwahi wind farm in Ulupalakua.
Construction began in March 2012 and was completed in December of the same year.
The project’s eight wind turbines are located on the slopes of Haleakala on Ulupalakua Ranch land. They are capable of generating enough electricity to power 10,000 local homes.
Company officials say the project is also helping to diversify the island’s power supply and contribute to the state’s energy independence and security.
More than 200 guests attended today’s dedication ceremony including US Sen. Brian Schatz, Hawaii Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui and Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa. They were joined by officials from Sempra US Gas & Power, BP Wind Energy, and community leaders from across the state.
Sen. Schatz said the Auwahi wind farm will contribute significantly to Hawaii’s clean energy goals.
In a statement today, he said the project is consistent with Hawai’i’s values of cooperation, and will contribute to a solution nationally on climate change and maintaining the ranching lifestyle on Ulupalakua Ranch.
“Auwahi Wind Farm is critically important,” he said. “This is about keeping Maui Maui and setting an example not just for the state, but the rest of the nation.”
Meantime, Lt. Gov. Tsutsui, who was born and raised on Maui, welcomed the project noting the 180 jobs that were created during construction and four full-time positions that were created for the operation of the wind farm today.
“We’re always talking about sustainability and being independent,” said Tsutsui in a press statement today. “This goes hand in hand with a lot of our initiatives. It’s definitely a step in the right direction and we look much forward to other projects.”
Company officials also joined in the celebration. Kevin C. Sagara, vice president of renewables and corporate development for Sempra US Gas & Power said he was pleased that the project was completed on time, on budget, and done with safety in mind.
“This project will provide clean, sustainable power to Maui residents for generations and will bring Hawaii another step closer to meeting its goal to derive 40% of its power from renewable sources by 2030,” said Sagara.
The facility represents BP and Sempra’s first alternative energy venture in the state.
BP Wind Energy’s president and CEO John Graham thanked the local community, Ulupalakua Ranch, and its neighbors saying, “Today is a celebration for the community of Maui in harnessing wind power as part of a diverse and adequate energy supply.”
An important component of the project is an 11 MW/4.4-megawatt-hour grid battery system.
At its peak, company officials say the system is capable of 11 MW sustained for approximately 25 minutes. The battery system is designed to regulate and sustain power to Maui Electric Company’s grid during light wind conditions.
MECO President, Sharon Suzuki said the project provides a valuable energy alternative for the island, bringing the island’s total installed wind generation capacity to 72 MW.
She called the feat, “a great accomplishment for such a small island and one that will help further our efforts to break our dependence on foreign oil.”
Sumner Erdman, president of the Ulupalakua Ranch, said the wind project will allow the ranch to preserve much of its land and grazing areas in open space for the raising of cattle.
“Auwahi Wind will go a long way toward preserving the ranching lifestyle at Ulupalakua and on Maui,” said Erdman.
The blessing ceremony was led by Kahu Dane Maxwell who was on hand to conduct the official dedication of the wind facility.