Maui is now generating more electricity from the wind after a second major wind farm went into operation. Sempra U.S. Gas & Power and BP Wind Energy announced Thursday that their 21-megawatt Auwahi Wind plant with eight turbines at Ulupalakua Ranch is in full operation with the capability to power about 10,000 typical Maui homes. Maui Electric Co. is buying electricity from the plant under a 20-year contract. One important element of the plant is a 10-megawatt battery that can store 4.4 megawatt-hours of power. The battery allows electricity delivery at peak usage times using energy generated earlier during off-peak periods, and can also help sustain power to Maui Electric's grid during light wind conditions.
"The addition of new, clean energy from our project will be a boost for Maui's infrastructure and will help Hawaii achieve its goal of securing 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030," Jeffrey W. Martin, president and CEO of Sempra, said in a statement. Sempra began construction in March. Building the project involved roughly 180 workers, though operating the wind farm will take just four full-time employees.
Auwahi Wind was first announced in 2006 as a $200 million project by a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell. Sempra bought the project in 2009 for an undisclosed price. Sumner Erdman, president of Ulupalakua Ranch, said the wind farm protects the environment by allowing the ranch to maintain its rural open space and grazing areas while also harnessing a renewable energy resource. "BP and Sempra U.S. Gas & Power have been terrific partners," he said in a statement. Maui's first commercial wind farm was a 30-megawatt plant in the West Maui mountains that went online in 2006.