First Wind: Hawaii’s Winds of Renewable Energy

First Wind, a wind energy company, has obtained $236 in financing for its third wind project in Hawaii, the 69 megawatt Kawailoa Wind project on the North Shore of Oahu.

Construction on the 7,187-acre site—basically the ground-breaking—began in December on Kamehameha Schools’ Kawailoa Plantation. When completed by the end of this year it will be the largest wind energy facility in the state; it’s estimated the project will provide more than five percent of Oahu’s electricity.

First Wind, based in Boston, focuses exclusively on the development, financing, construction, ownership and operation of utility-scale wind energy projects in the U.S. The company operates 750 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity at 12 wind energy projects in Maine, New York, Vermont, Utah and Hawaii.

Some details on the Kawailoa financing: A First Wind subsidiary, Kawailoa Wind, LLC, closed a $220 million non-recourse construction and term loan and $16 million in letters of credit. Union Bank served as the administrative agent and joint lead arranger. Other JLAs include Bayern LB, Rabobank and Siemens Financial Services. CIBC and CoBank also participated in the financing.

“Hawaii has a genuine commitment to having more renewable energy on the islands, and these banks recognize that this project will be an important component toward reaching that goal,” says Paul Gaynor, the company’s CEO.

Kawailoa’s thirty 2.3 MW Siemens wind turbines will have the capacity to generate enough wind energy to power the equivalent of about 14,500 homes on the island.

In December, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approved a 25-year power purchase agreement between Kawailoa Wind and the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), which serves more than 400,000 Hawaii customers.

Hawaii state law mandates 70 percent clean energy for electricity and surface transportation by 2030, with 40 percent coming from local renewable sources.

First Wind owns and operates two other wind energy projects in Hawaii, and is building another project on Maui. Kahuku Wind, also located on Oahu’s North Shore, 30 MW wind project, went online in March last year. Beginning The 30 MW Kaheawa Wind project above Ma‘alaea began commercial operations in 2006.  A second Maui project, Kaheawa Wind II, is under construction. It will have 14 wind turbines, capable of generating 21 MW of energy.

Yes Hawaii is small and benefits from strong, prevailing winds. Wind power there is a natural. But the state is aggressively taking advantage of the situation. It’s mandates on clean energy and local renewable sources, coupled with private financing, demonstrate how a clean energy economy can be developed.

[Image Credit: KWP I 2_First Wind via First Wind]

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