Trade winds should be put to use as energy source
Fourteen wind turbines are scheduled to be built in South Point on the Big Island to provide power for 10,000 households.
WHILE the state is turning to ethanol to contribute to running motor vehicles, industry is looking at alternative energy sources to satisfy a growing demand for electricity. The Big Island is leading the way,
adding wind as a source in South Point beginning next March. Honolulu should look to examples being set by neighbor islands to bolster its energy sources.
Tawhiri Power LLC, a subsidiary of California-based Apollo Power Corp., has scheduled its 21-megawatt Pakini Nui wind farm to sell power to the Big Isle's Hawaii Electric Light Co. The turbines, made by General Electric, will provide power to as many as 10,000 households, according to company officials. They will replace a nearby 9.3-megawatt wind farm that began operating in 1987.
The demand for electricity in Hawaii has grown enormously during the past two decades, as big-screen television sets, computers and air conditioners have become commonplace, and some neighborhoods prohibit clotheslines, making electric dryers necessary. Only 16 percent of homes on Oahu used air conditioners in 1980, but they were present in 54 percent of homes in 2004, according to Hawaiian Electric Co.
The Big Island has been able to adjust to the changing lifestyle and a population that is expected to grow from 149,000 six years ago to as high as 237,000 in 2020. The island derives 28 percent of its electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar power and thermal heat. The state's goal is to have at least 20 percent of its energy to come from renewable sources by 2020.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, some 15,000 wind turbines are generating power in 30 states. Wind is projected to provide 6 percent of the nation's electrical needs by 2020.
Wind power is not universally popular. A controversy is brewing in Vermont over the prospect of 400-foot-tall windmills interfering with the view of tops of picturesque mountains, drawing opposition from Gov. Jim Douglas. "While the governor supports renewable energy ... he cannot support the commercialization and industrialization of our mountaintops," a spokesman said this month.
Oahu is at a disadvantage because of a shortage of land suitable to accommodate windmills. A proposed wind farm on Leeward Oahu was rejected recently by the community, but Hawaiian Electric is considering a proposal for a wind farm at Kahuku.
The 30-megawatt Kaheawa facility became Maui's first wind farm to be fully operational this summer, using 20 GE wind turbines. Shell Oil Co. plans a $200 million, 40-megawatt wind farm on a remote corner of Maui's Ulupalakua Ranch to provide enough power for 15,000 homes.