South Kohala energy project gets boost

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A renewable energy project in South Kohala is catching its second wind with a new operator.

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A renewable energy project in South Kohala is catching its second wind with a new operator.

Lalamilo Wind Co. LLC is building five wind turbines at the former Lalamilo Wind Farm near Puako, which Hawaii Electric Light Co. decommissioned in 2010 after operating for 25 years.

The turbines will generate 3.3 megawatts to power eight Hawaii County Department of Water Supply wells on the property.

Groundbreaking occurred Wednesday and the turbines are expected to begin operating in late 2016.

The company is covering the $13 million construction cost and will sell the electricity to the department for 27 cents per kilowatt hour, said Keith Okamoto, Water Supply manager.

The turbines will provide 75 to 80 percent of the wells’ power needs.

The department anticipates saving $1 million a year as a result. He said the HELCO rate typically is about 38 cents.

Lalamilo registered with the state in 2013 and lists a Waimea mailing address. Members include Richard A. Horn, Richard D. Hardin and Upolu Wind Farm LLC.

Water Supply anticipates spending $23 million on electricity alone in the next fiscal year, Okamoto said. That’s almost half of its $53 million operating budget.

The wells served by this project provide an average of 5.1 million gallons of water per day to residential, resort, park, industrial and commercial areas from Mauna Lani Resort to Kawaihae, according to the county. Water Supply currently pays $4.1 million a year to power the wells.

“This is a very significant project for us,” Okamoto said.

He said it would be hard to replicate elsewhere since there aren’t many locations where water sources sit so close to a renewable energy project. The site is classified as “optimal” for wind resources, according to the project’s environmental assessment.

But Okamoto said the department is looking at other ways to improve efficiency and it recently completed an energy audit.

The wind farm previously operated 120 turbines that produced 2.7 mgw, according to the EA.

The new turbines, which are almost 200 feet tall at the top of the blade, will sit on 3.45 acres mauka of Queen Kaahumanu Highway and between Waikoloa and Kawaihae roads.

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The power purchase agreement between Lalamilo and the county lasts 20 years. The turbines have a 40-year lifespan.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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