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Boston-based First Wind has announced that the Kahuku Wind project in Oahu is again operating at full capacity. Following an energy-storage facility fire that suspended the wind farm's operations since August 2012, First Wind says it worked with Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO) and other experts to bring the Kahuku project back online.

"We sincerely appreciate the support and patience of the Kahuku community during this period and are happy to announce that the project is back online at full capacity,” says Ryan Pierce, operations manager for First Wind’s Hawaii projects.

According to First Wind spokesperson John Lamontagne, three total fires occurred at the project’s energy-storage facility since April 2011. Texas-based Xtreme Power supplied the battery-based system.

“Unfortunately, because of the extensive damage to the entire facility, a cause of the fire has not ultimately been determined,” Lamontagne says.

Because the wind farm feeds into the Oahu electrical grid, he says HECO had recommended a battery at the project. “The battery was needed to smooth out voltage fluctuations that occur due to the varying nature of wind power,” Lamontagne explains. “As such, after the battery fire, it was necessary to install some sort of voltage-regulation equipment.”

Ultimately, an updated interconnection requirements study was conducted and determined that a Dynamic Volt-Amp Reactive (DVAR) system from American Superconductor could replace the need for a battery system at the site.

“We’re thrilled to utilize this new technology to safely generate clean, renewable energy for the island of Oahu,” adds Pierce.

First Wind says the Kahuku Wind project’s 12 wind turbines have been fully maintained since the shutdown in 2012, and testing of turbines and new DVAR technology began in September 2013. The project returned to service, but in a limited capacity of 5 MW. In late January, HECO gave the go-ahead for the project to return to full service.

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