The state of Hawaii, energy giant Shell Oil and a 100-year-old ranch are teaming up to build huge wind turbines on Maui that should eventually provide 20 percent of all of the island's power needs.
Gov. Linda Lingle and John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co. USA, announced the $200 million project Friday alongside Sumner Erdman, president of Ulupalakua Ranch, Inc.
Erdman said his 20,000-acre ranch had been looking six years for such a deal as a way to diversify.
The wind farm's first phase is expected to be completed in 2008 with 20 turbines producing up to 40 megawatts of power. The plan is to then double the site's output with the completion of a second phase.
According to the company, nearly 20 percent of the island's power will come from wind turbines once the project is complete.
Lingle called the plan a major step toward the statewide goal of having 20 percent of Hawaii's energy coming from renewable sources by 2020.
"To actually have the projects and this level of investment coming into the state is proof that we really can achieve and surpass the goal that we'd set for ourselves," she said.
State Sen. J. Kalani English said ranch officials already have met with the local community about the project.
The wind farm is unlikely to face local opposition because its site was chosen not only for its high winds but also because it is out of sight of the more populated parts of the island, said English, whose district includes the project area in the eastern part of the island.
Michael May, president and chief executive officer of Hawaiian Electric Co., said the contract has yet to be completed, so it's too soon to say if or by how much the project could be expected to lower energy costs for local customers.