Wind Energy in Kauai

Kevin Anderson
December 5, 2015

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2015


Fig. 1: This is a map of the Hawaiian Islands. Kauai is marked in red. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The island of Kauai is commonly known as the "Garden Island" due to its large amounts of untouched vegetation. While Kauai is the fourth largest island by land mass, it has a population of roughly 70,000, only 5% of the total population of the state. Fig. 1 shows the chain of Hawaiian Islands. The island residents pride themselves on maintaining the islands lack of development and natural feel. For this reason, Kauaians are generally against industrial sized power plants. As a state, Hawaii generates most of it's energy by importing petroleum and natural gas. There is a new plan called "Hawaii Inter-island Renewable Energy Program--Wind" to try and have 70% of the entire state's power production by 2030 from green energy. [1]

High Price of Electricity

Another aspect of the Kauaian energy debate is the general difficulty of being an island. This simple factor causes a huge increase in the price of power. By not using a local source of energy, like wind or solar, all of the energy must be imported and that comes at a huge expense. This results in the cost of electricity in Hawaii to be extremely high, especially compared to other states. By implementing a renewable and green source of energy, Kauains can stop paying such absurd prices for electricity.

Possibility of Harnessing the Wind

Fig. 2: This map shows the wind power around the United States. (Courtesy of the DOE)

Due to the large, steep mountain range called Waialeale, which is positioned directly on the northeastern coast of the island, Kauai experiences large amounts of rain and windstorms. The large amounts of rain has caused the use of solar energy to be difficult, however, the potentials of wind energy is still great. [2] There are currently wind plants on other islands, however Kauai does not have one. These trade winds that come from north to south are not only strong, but are also fairly consistent. They blow 50% of the time during the winter and 90% of the time during the summer. [2] Fig. 2 shows that there are also "superb" wind power directly off of the coast of Kauai.


Hawai, as an entire state, has a peak summer capacity of 2,700 MW.1 Having roughly 5% of the population of Hawaii, Kauai proportionally peaks at 135 MW during the summer. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the average cost per kWh of wind energy is roughly $1000. [3] By spending $13,500,000 on a wind turbine farm, on or off the coast, 100% of Kauai's peak energy need could be produced from a completely renewable energy.

© Kevin Anderson. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] L. Petersen, "Hawaii Doubles Down on 'Big Wind,' Seeking Long-Term Energy Solution," New York Times, 15 Apr 11.

[2] C. S. Ramage and T. A. Schroeder, "Trade Wind Rainfall Atop Mount Waialeale, Kauai," Mon. Wea. Rev. 127, 2217 (1999).

[3]L. Fingersh, M. Hand, and A. Laxson, "Wind Turbine Design Cost and Scaling Model," U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL/TP-500-40566, December 2006.