ULUPALAKUA - Hawaii Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz joined local business leaders, members of the community and executives from Sempra U.S. Gas & Power on April 27 to celebrate the start of construction of the 21-megawatt Auwahi Wind project located on Ulupalakua Ranch.
Approximately 200 guests attended the event, which included a traditional Hawaiian blessing ceremony.
Auwahi Wind will help the State of Hawaii pursue its goal of securing 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.
When fully operational in late 2012, the wind farm's eight turbines will generate enough clean electricity to power about 10,000 typical Maui homes at stable and predictable prices.
"We need the clean energy," Schatz said, commending Auwahi Wind, its supporters and the Maui community for creating partnerships that allowed the project to reach the groundbreaking milestone.
"It starts with the community and this is the model. This is the way we're going to work from now on."
Auwahi Wind's project will also contribute long-term tax revenues and create 150 local construction jobs.
Mayor Alan Arakawa said he often sees community conflicts over new types of development on Maui. The Sempra project was different in that many welcomed the wind farm.
"This is one that everybody has gotten together for the greater good," Arakawa said.
Land lease revenues generated by the project will allow the 18,000-acre Ulupalakua Ranch to maintain its rural and agricultural character for future generations.
Ulupalakua Ranch President Sumner Erdman said the partnership with Sempra allows his family to balance its love for the land and its need to thrive economically.
"We love open space and we love agriculture," Erdman said. "This allows us to keep it intact."
Erdman said Sempra's "strategic alliance" with Maui Electric Co. will make strides toward protecting the natural environment while maximizing wind as a renewable energy resource.
"I think it also means the island is moving in the right direction with less dependence on oil. Through this partnership, we can help the island of Maui find its balance," Erdman said.
"We recognize our responsibility to develop Auwahi Wind in a way that is respectful of the environment," said John Sowers, vice president of operations at Sempra U.S. Gas & Power.
"We're committed to taking the right steps to ensure this is a project Maui can be proud of, and we are thrilled to be joined by the local community today to celebrate this major project milestone."
A key component of the project is a 10 MW battery unit capable of storing up to 4.4 megawatt-hours of power generated by wind turbines during the windy morning and night hours.
This stored power will help regulate and smooth intermittent wind power, providing a valuable source of grid stability to Maui Electric.
The wind power from Auwahi Wind has been sold to Maui Electric Co. under a 20-year contract.
Sempra U.S. Gas & Power LLC is a leading developer of renewable energy and natural gas projects. The company's wind, solar and low-emission natural gas power plants generate more than 1,500 megawatts of electricity, providing enough clean energy to power approximately one million homes.
For more information, visit www.semprausgp.com/auwahi.