A Japanese company plans to build 13 wind turbines, enough to power 25,000 homes, on the slopes above the Kahe Power Plant in West Oahu.
Hawaiian Electric Co. announced Wednesday it has finalized a power purchase agreement with EE Ewa LLC to buy electricity from a new wind farm, Palehua Wind, on the eastern slope of the Waianae range.
The agreement was filed with the Public Utilities Commission for review Wednesday afternoon, paving the way for the 46.8-megawatt farm to move forward.
The 13 wind turbines are 260 feet tall from base to hub and would be capable of generating about 150,000 megawatt-hours of energy annually.
It would be the fourth wind farm project for Oahu, following two that are already up and running — Kahuku Wind (12 turbines) and Kawailoa Wind (30 turbines) — and Na Pua Makani (eight turbines), which is under development, on the North Shore.
Previous wind farms on Oahu have generated opposition due to concerns about noise and obstruction of views as well as the turbines’ blades killing native bats and birds.
If approved, Palehua Wind would be built on about 1,600 acres of land owned by Gill ‘Ewa Lands LLC, which says it considers the project a funding source for its overall mission of restoring the ecosystem in the area.
HECO considers the project an important part of the mix needed to reach the state’s goal of using 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
“Hawaii’s clean energy future depends on a diverse mix of renewable energy resources,” said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president for business development and strategic planning, in a news release. “Palehua Wind will be an important addition to the resources available on Oahu, providing lower- cost energy for customers, a cleaner environment for our communities and supporting Gill ‘Ewa Lands stewardship.”
Eurus Energy American Corp. of San Diego, Calif., which installed Hawaii’s largest solar photovoltaic farm in Waianae last year, is the parent company of EE Ewa LLC.
Eurus Energy America Corp. is the North American arm of Eurus Energy Holdings, a Tokyo-based developer of renewable energy projects jointly owned by Toyota Tsusho Corp. and Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Nick Henriksen, vice president of development for Eurus Energy America Corp., said Palehua Wind would be using the latest technology available in turbines, making it more efficient than earlier projects. Eurus plans to use turbines made by Vestas wind systems of Denmark.
While the size of the turbines will be similar to the ones on the North Shore, each one can generate more energy than earlier generations of turbines, so fewer are needed to meet the same energy demands, he said, and they are quieter.
Under the agreement, EE Ewa would sell electricity to HECO at a set cost of 10.9 cents per kilowatt-hour over a 22-year term. The rate is lower than purchase- power agreements made with the two operating wind farms in Kahuku.
Palehua Wind’s sale of wind energy to HECO would, in turn, help fund ecological restoration work, according to Gill ‘Ewa Lands spokesman Tony Gill.
Eurus has spent several years studying the site, he said, and has found it ideal for harnessing wind. The project, a more than $100 million investment, should be able to generate energy for 25 years. The site is also ideal because it happens to be beneath an existing high-voltage power line, which saves money on infrastructure costs.
Gill said he approached Eurus Energy about building the wind farm because he sees it as the most sensible option, as it takes up a smaller footprint for the amount of energy it could produce.
Gill ‘Ewa Lands is committed to keeping the 1,600 acres it owns — stretching from the ocean at Manners Beach to the peak of Mauna Kapu — in agriculture and conservation. The area is available for agricultural enterprises and home to Camp Palehua.
The funds from Palehua Wind would help Gill ‘Ewa Lands work to reforest land that has been flattened into pasture for cattle to graze, making it vulnerable to erosion and wildfires. Those efforts include the removal of invasive plants, renewal of habitats for native birds, and preservation of cultural and archaeological sites.
Henriksen said Eurus Energy sees the wind farm as complementary to solar because it can produce energy during the night as well as day.
“One of the benefits of this project is not only does it get Hawaii and HECO closer towards the 100 percent goal but is also generating renewable energy at the time when solar energy isn’t available,” Henriksen said.
Palehua Wind will need PUC approval of its contract with HECO, followed by additional permits from the city as well as federal agencies, which could take up to five years to complete. Pending PUC and permit approvals, Palehua Wind is expected to be operational by December 2022.
Eurus Energy America installed Hawaii’s largest solar farm, the EE Waianae Solar Project, a 27.6-megawatt solar photovoltaic array last year, which provides power to more than 4,000 homes. While Palehua Wind would be Eurus’ first wind project in Hawaii, it has built others in Oregon, California and Kansas.
HECO said the project would result in about a 71-cent saving for a typical, residential customer using about 500 kilowatt-hours per month. That would be in addition to other cost-savings from other alternative energy projects.
HECO estimated about 27 percent of the state’s energy comes from renewable sources, as of the end of 2017
With the Palehua Wind project and seven new solar-plus-battery projects on three islands, HECO said it would have contracts with independent producers for more than 800 megawatts of renewable energy in operation, under construction or in the works, bringing it closer to the state’s 100 percent renewable energy goal.
Eurus Energy America Corp. has signed a purchase- power agreement with HECO for a wind farm in Waianae.
>> Size: 46.8-megawatt facility, capable of generating more than 150,000 megawatt-hours of electricity annually, or power for up to 25,000 homes.
>> Details: 13 turbines measuring 260 feet tall from base to hub
>> Location: Turbines would be overlooking Kahe Power Plant on land owned by Gill ‘Ewa Lands
>> Timing: Pending PUC and permit approvals, would be operational by December 2022
>> Information: renewpalehua.com/project
A GLANCE AT OAHU’S WIND FARMS
>> Kahuku Wind: 30-megawatt, 12 turbines, North Shore (2011)
>> Kawailoa Wind: 69-megawatt, 30 turbines, North Shore (2012)
>> Na Pua Makani: 25-megawatt, eight turbines, North Shore (under development)
>> Palehua Wind: 46.8-megawatt, 13 turbines, Waianae (proposed)