County plans wind farm to power water wells

A plan to recommission the Lalamilo wind farm to power county water wells could save ratepayers $1 million a year.

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A plan to recommission the Lalamilo wind farm to power county water wells could save ratepayers $1 million a year.

A draft environmental assessment released this month found no significant impacts to repowering the old South Kohala site with five Vestas 660 kilowatt wind turbine generators. A total generating capacity of 3.3 megawatts will repower eight wells in the Lalamilo-Parker well system, under a Department of Water Supply plan. The wells have a combined capacity of 5 million gallons a day and serve users from the Mauna Lani Resort to Kawaihae.

The Department of Water Supply awarded Lalamilo Wind Co. the $13 million project, which is expected to cut the department’s power bill for the wells in half over the next 20 years, while helping meet the state’s renewable energy goals, according to the draft.

The pricetag for the project will be borne by the wind company, which in turn will sell the electricity to the DWS, said the department’s manager Quirino Antonio Jr.

“Hopefully it will start providing electricity by the end of 2015 or early 2016,” Antonio said.

The EA process should conclude within 60 to 90 days. The next step is to get a lease for the project from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Antonio said. The farm is located on 126 acres of DLNR land.

No rare or threatened plant or animal species were identified in the area, which is a windy, open area of buffelgrass and fountain grass. The study found that sea birds and bats were unlikely to pass through the area.

Public comment on the project continues until July 23. Once completed, the project is expected to have a useful lifespan of 40 years.

Work to the site would include access road improvements, an updated monitoring and control system, a new 13-kilovolt overhead electrical transmission line and other components.

The old wind farm, built in the 1980s, was a 2.7 megawatt project with 120 Jacobs turbines. The farm was decommissioned in 2010 so the outdated turbines could be replaced.

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Public comment: Department of Water Supply of the County of Hawaii, Attn: Quirino Antonio Jr., P.E., Manager, Chief Engineer, 345 Kekuanaoa St., Suite 20, Hilo, HI 96720.

Draft EA on the Web: oeqc.doh.hawaii.gov/Shared%20Documents/Environmental_Notice/current_issue.pdf.

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