SunEdison Wind Powers Hawaii
SunEdison Wind Project Powers Hawaii
This August a vacation took me to the island of Maui in Hawaii and while I was there, I was lucky enough to visit SunEdison’s 51 megawatt, 34-turbine Kaheawa Wind Phase I and II Project. The project, located above the town of Maalaea, is visible from miles away and is widely known on the island. Local residents generally seem proud of the project, located on state land that was formerly used for sheep grazing, which destroyed much of the original vegetation.
As is usual in Maui, the day I visited alternated between clear and cloudy. Winds were higher than usual (about 35 mph) and SunEdison’s turbines were generating a lot of electricity. Carolyn Unser, a Community Outreach Coordinator at SunEdison was our guide. We started with a drive up a 17% incline gravel road. SunEdison built the road up the ridge in order to access the project. It was clear as our four-wheel-drive vehicle struggled up the road, that construction must have been a challenge.
After taking some photos outside the office building about halfway up the ridge, Carloyn showed us a presentation about the wind farm’s construction and SunEdison’s approach to environmental mitigation/restoration and community outreach, which distinguishes it from many other developers. Carolyn leads these efforts for SunEdison and was the point person on Kaheawa working with the local community. SunEdison is restoring native vegetation and habitat around the turbines in a process that is respectful of the local culture regarding stewardship of the land.
We then headed up to the top of the line of turbines, where strong winds blew clouds that would cover the turbines in a matter of seconds. One moment you could see them and the next they were invisible. When the clouds were blown away, we had an incredible view of a bay where whales come every winter to breed and raise their babies.
The electricity resource mix on Hawaii is heavily weighted toward oil. Wind projects like Kaheawa provide much needed supply diversity as well as clean electricity. SunEdison’s continuing outreach and engagement with the community, has ensured that the project is well regarded and that the local community can benefit from Kahewa’s energy, environmental and economic benefits for years to come.