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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 28, 2010

Big Isle turbines to tower 156 feet

By Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer

Two 100-kilowatt wind turbines are planned for two separate installations on the Big Island, marking what is to be the largest wind-power projects by individual businesses in the state.

One of the Northern Power Systems turbines is being proposed for the Hawaii Water Service Co. facility in Waikoloa, while the other is being drawn up for the Hawaii Big Island Beef slaughterhouse in Pa'auilo.

Plans by development partners Gen-X Energy Development LLC of Ha'ikū, Maui, and NexGen Energy Partners LLC of Boulder, Colo., will feature large machines perched on 120-foot-high towers. At their highest point, the blades are 156 feet high.

"They'll be the first two of that size that I'm aware of," said Warren Bollmeier II, president of the Hawaii Renewable Energy Alliance.

He said most individual installations feature much smaller wind turbines, but that the state could see more similarly sized turbines being installed. He said farmers, ranchers and even schools in areas blessed with good winds are candidates.

"We're not talking about hundreds, certainly not thousands, but we're talking about good opportunities."

He said developers and owners can take advantage of a 30 percent tax credit while lowering their electricity bills. Hawai'i boasts the highest average electricity costs in the nation, in part because most of the generation comes from petroleum-fired facilities.

Leo Caires of Gen-X said it is in the midst of getting permits for both projects, with the Hawaii Big Island Beef project further along in the process. He said that turbine could be installed this summer.

The turbine should produce at least half of the slaughterhouse's energy needs while eliminating 400,000 pounds of carbon dioxide that otherwise might have been produced.

Power generated from the wind turbine will be sold to the slaughterhouse under a long-term agreement, with the development partners owning and maintaining the wind turbine.

"This is the first commercial wind turbine project in the state of Hawai'i under this model," said Caires. "We assume all the risk for the customer and we provide them with long-term cost control for their energy needs."

Gen-X is providing the development expertise, while NexGen is helping with the financing on the project. In Waikoloa, Hawai'i-based Site Constructors Inc. is also involved.

Hawaiian Electric Co. spokesman Peter Rosegg said there are other examples of private wind generators around the state. But he noted the installations are primarily limited to rural areas because of noise they generate and land requirements.

Caires said he has a number of other potential projects lined up that include a mix of wind, hydropower and solar for potential customers on the Big Island, Maui, O'ahu and Moloka'i. They include wastewater treatment facilities, farms, municipalities and schools, he said.

Correction: A previous version of this story included a photograph of wind turbines that are larger than the machines being planned for two Big Island projects.