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Hawaii wind farm to synchronize with needs

Battery storage system coupled with smart grid will allow 30-megawatt wind farm to provide on-demand electricity despite sporadic wind currents.

Hawaii residents will soon be getting a 30-megawatt wind farm off the coast of Oahu's north shore.

The 30-megawatt Kahuku Wind farm developed by First Wind will consist of twelve 2.5-megawatt wind turbines manufactured by Clipper Windpower in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Once completed, it's expected to generate enough electricity to power 7,700 Oahu homes annually.

The Boston, Mass.-based First Wind signed of power of purchase agreement with the Hawaiian Electric Company to sell them electricity generated from the farm for 20 years at an undisclosed price.

A ceremonial groundbreaking held Wednesday for the Kahuka Wind project was attended by Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle and First Wind CEO Paul Gaynor.

While First Wind was the main driver behind the project, it was made possible in large part by a $117 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy, Gaynor said in a statement.

The project dovetails into the Hawaii's ambitious long term goal to generate 70 percent of all its energy used for both electricity and ground transportation with renewable resources by 2030. It's also estimated that the project will generate up to 200 jobs during its construction.

"These wind turbines will provide another source of clean energy for Oahu's power grid, further building on the progress Hawaii has made in becoming a world leader in clean energy," Lindle said in a statement.

But it may be what happens once the construction is over, that proves to be the most interesting aspect of the project.

The wind farm will use a battery storage system from Xtreme Power, which will allow First Wind to maximize the electricity potential of the area's sporadic wind currents by storing excess generated electricity for use at a later time. In addition to storing electricity for delayed delivery, the system will also tie in with a smart grid linked to the Hawaiian Electric Company to provide consistent power as needed. The system will "reduce power variability by more than 95 percent," according to Xtreme Power.

First Wind and Xtreme Power previously partnered on another project in Hawaii that is already up and running. The Kaheawa Wind project consists of a 30-megawatt wind farm on land in Maui.