Hawaii is the most fossil fuel dependent state in the nation. Because oil is both a volatile commodity and a finite resource, it is imperative that we begin to embrace alternatives. Wind is one of the most viable.
Achieving the goal of 70% clean energy in Hawaii by 2030 should be a breeze. That’s because wind energy is an important part of the state’s clean energy initiative.
THE WIND HAS ALWAYS BEEN AT OUR BACK
Wind power is renewable. We have an endless supply. On Molokai and Lanai – where wind levels are among the best in the country – wind is available 40% of the time.
- Wind power will reduce use of fossil fuels and our reliance on imported oil.
- Wind power projects will inspire investments and jobs in construction and high technology.
- In the long run, wind power will be less expensive than conventional energy.
- Wind power is homegrown and represents a valuable “crop” for local farmers and ranchers
- Unlike other sources of electricity, wind turbines don’t consume water and are surprisingly quiet
- Wind turbines also have a lower impact on birds and other wildlife than conventional fuels that pollute air and water.
WIND ENERGY IN HAWAII
Wind is plentiful on Hawaii’s islands. In the past, ancient Hawaiians depended on the trade winds to sail their canoes. And for the people of Hawaii today, the wind holds tremendous potential as a clean, renewable energy source. Wind turbines can be used as stand-alone applications, or they can be connected to a utility power grid or even combined with a photovoltaic (solar cell) system. For utility-scale (megawatt-sized) sources of wind energy, a large number of wind turbines are usually built close together to form a wind plant. A growing number of utility providers use wind plants to supply power to their customers. In Hawaii, wind farms are already supplying electricity to consumers on Maui and Hawaii’s Big Island, and plans are under way to install wind turbines on Lanai, Molokai, and Oahu.
Stand-alone wind turbines are typically used for water pumping or communications. However, homeowners, farmers, and ranchers in windy areas can also use wind turbines as a way to reduce their electric bills. Small wind systems also have potential as distributed energy resources. Distributed energy resources refer to a variety of small modular, power-generating technologies that can be combined to improve the operation of the electricity-delivery system.
D.O.E. WIND PROGRAM
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Wind Program and NREL have published a wind resource map for the state of Hawaii. The map shows wind speed estimates at 50 meters above the ground and depicts the resource that could be used for utility-scale wind development. Future plans are to provide wind speed estimates at 30 meters, which are useful for identifying small wind turbine opportunities.
As a renewable resource, wind is classified according to wind power classes, which are based on typical wind speeds. These classes range from Class 1 (the lowest) to Class 7 (the highest). In general, at 50 meters, Class 4 or higher can be useful for generating wind power with large turbines. Class 4 and above are considered good resources. Particular locations in the Class 3 areas could have higher wind power class values at 80 meters than shown on the 50-meter map because of possible high wind shear. Given the advances in technology, a number of locations in the Class 3 areas may be suitable for utility-scale wind development.
This map indicates that Hawaii has wind resources consistent with utility-scale production. Good-to-excellent wind resource areas are fairly evenly distributed throughout the islands. The largest contiguous areas are located on the western parts of Molokai and Lanai, on the western and southern shores of Maui and Kahoolawe, and on the northern and southern tips of Hawaii. There are also localized high-wind resource areas on the islands of Kauai and Oahu.
ADDITIONAL WIND ENERGY INFORMATION
Get the Facts
American Wind Energy Association
Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
U.S. Department of Energy