Pakini Nui Wind Farm site manager Tommy Woods displays a nearly 100-foot-long spare wind turbine blade in Kailua-Kona. CLICK FOR LARGE
Big Isle wind farm boosts grid
KAILUA-KONA » The new wind farm on the Big Island's South Point is steadily producing power for Big Island residents, but it is not steadily shrinking local electricity bills.
Pakini Nui Wind Farm's 14 wind turbines came online four months ago, adding 21 megawatts of capacity to the Big Island, or enough power for more than 10,000 homes.
"Pakini Nui has got a lot of good wind," said Warren Lee, Hawaii Electric Light Co.'s president. "They're producing quite a bit of energy for the HELCO grid."
Investors say South Point's consistently blowing wind keeps the turbines twirling at one of the highest rates of any wind farm in the world.
"(Hawaii island) has a world-class treasure," said Kevin Walsh, managing director of GE Energy Financial Services.
But the wind power is not lowering electricity bills, even though it is locally generated, unlike the imported oil the state is so heavily reliant on.
HELCO pays for the wind farm electricity by calculating the "avoided cost," or the cost the utility would have to pay if it were to build or generate power on its own.
Lee said rates vary because they are tied to oil prices.
Boosting renewable energy sources on the Big Island would neither positively nor negatively impact consumer rates, he added.
The Pakini Nui project does, however, help the state toward its goal of obtaining 20 percent of locally consumed energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Pakini Nui went into service in April after the wind turbines were installed in January, said Tony Pace, head of Apollo Power Corp., the parent company of farm owner and operator Tawhiri Power LLC.
GE Energy, which was to initially provide the machinery and construction financing, eventually became an investor.
Pakini Nui's turbines replaced the nearby 9.3-megawatt Kamaoa Wind Farm, which began operations in 1987 and had 37 Mitsubishi turbines on 100 acres of land.
Pace said the company is currently deciding whether to dispose of, remove or rehabilitate the Mitsubishi turbines.