Youth Alliance members solidified their support for renewable energy systems after touring the Auwahi Wind facility in Ulupalakua. “I had not realized the importance of windmills on our islands and how much they truly contribute to our lives,” 11th-grader Racieli Andrada said after visiting the wind farm. “We are very lucky to to have access to a variety of energy resources,” she said, “and we should use it while we have it rather than wasting lots of money on importing oil and what not.” Graduated senior Lavinia Sagario added: “Wind farms fit perfectly in the overall energy systems for Maui County.”
Auwahi Wind Energy’s 21-megawatt wind farm features eight turbines on Haleakala’s wind-rich southeast slope on Ulupalakua Ranch land. The project was officially dedicated in February and is expected to generate enough electricity to power 10,000 homes on Maui. The project, developed by Sempra U.S. Gas and Power and BP Energy, is poised to help Hawaii reach its goal of reducing its dependence on fossil fuels and help the state reach its goal of securing 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. Sagario said she learned on the tour that wind energy contributes approximately nine percent of the power provided by Maui Electric Co. “At least that nine percent is something cleaner than oil,” she said.
Youth Alliance members attend monthly events during the school year to explore and gain a greater understanding of key components in the Maui community. Their gatherings are coordinated by the Maui Economic Development Board. “Education is important to learn the background information and technicality of renewable energy, but so is experience,” Sagario said. Andrada and Sagario said visiting the wind farm made them keenly aware of the importance of education and training in renewable energy. “As the renewable energy field takes off, this will only provide more jobs and improve our economy and environment,” Andrada said.