The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) recently approved an Exemption from Competitive Bidding and a Power Purchase Agreement for a new industrial wind project in Kahuku. The Na Pua Makani project might add 10 new, 512 feet towers that effectively surround the town.
Wind turbines are the tallest structures in Hawaii, rising a hundred feet higher than the tallest building in Honolulu. Even when placed “way upslope,” they dominate the countryside, loom over Waimea Valley and Kahuku, and are highly visible for many miles, day and night.
The current plan would place towers about one-third of a mile from Kahuku High and Intermediate School and the residential community. The existing wind turbines on the other side of the residences are about three-fourths of a mile away and they are not as tall as the proposed towers may be.
Jeffrey Ono, the State Consumer Advocate, had recommended that the PUC wait for completion of the environmental Impact Statement before granting its approval to Na Pua Makani. He noted that the local community has raised numerous concerns about the project and that it is only logical for the PUC to look at the impacts and consider the concerns of the host community before deciding.
Hawaii’s environmental law, HRS 343, states that “an environmental review process will integrate the review of environmental concerns with existing planning processes of the State and counties and alert decision makers to significant environmental effects which may result from the implementation of certain actions.”
It also says “public participation during the review process benefits all parties involved and society as a whole” and “It is the purpose of this chapter to establish a system of environmental review which will ensure that environmental concerns are given appropriate consideration in decision making along with economic and technical considerations.”
I do not know how anyone could argue that decisions of this nature should be made without consideration of the wishes of area residents and before completion of the environmental study. Forcing a small rural community, against its wishes, to accept new, gigantic wind turbines in close proximity to its homes and school is not right. Meanwhile, more projects are under consideration.
Because of these concerns, I have introduced two new bills. SB205 would clarify the intent of our environmental law by stipulating that no agency shall approve any action until the lead agency has accepted a final environmental statement. SB1167 would allow counties to establish minimum setbacks for industrial wind turbines of 4000 feet (4/5 mi.) from residential properties.
The consultants for Na Pua Makani assure me that many people in Kahuku and our district support their plan, but I know of very few supporters. Am I wrong about what our residents think about windmills on the North Shore and in Koolauloa? I am very interested to know the sentiment of residents throughout our district, particularly those who live near the existing wind projects. Please call or email me your thoughts.