First Wind flips switch on second farm on Oahu

Kahuku's 12 turbines still inactive after series of 3 fires

Published  7:36 AM HST Nov 20, 2012
HONOLULU -

Hawaii's breezy tradewinds are back at work on Oahu as a second set of turbines are turned on by the company First Wind.

"First Wind is really pleased to bring online this 69 megawatt wind farm.  That's enough to power 14,500 homes on Oahu," said First Wind Director Kekoa Kaluhiwa.

At what is now the state's largest wind farm, a total of 30 huge turbines are spinning above the North Shore.

But, in nearby Kahuku, First Wind's 12 turbines remain still, just like they've been since August, when a blaze tore through the facility's battery storage building.  The fire destroyed the structure, but left behind unanswered questions.

"We are still trying to find the root cause of the battery fire there we are hoping to get it back online as soon as possible and we are working with Hawaiian Electric to do so," said Kaluhiwa

But that is expected to take another year.

Until then, this will be Oahu's only working wind farm -- one that was built without a battery storage building.

"The battery system fire in Kahuku was unique.  Not having a battery system in Kawailoa we don't anticipate any fire incidents at this project," said Kaluhiwa.

The latest project will help the state get closer to its goals of using 70 percent clean energy for electricity and transportation by the year 2030.

After a series of three fires at First Wind's Kahuku farm, additional work and technology also went in to make sure the newest production site would not only keep the electric grid stable it would also shield it from dangers.

"We had to make sure that we could install the necessary equipment and controls to allow the wind farm to go online in a safe reliable fashion," HECO spokesman Darren Pai.

Along with working to get the Kahuku site working again, First Wind is also looking at expanding its clean energy production.  It is looking at other areas around the state that may be suitable for additional wind or commercial solar farms.

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