The Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is considering the feasibility of giant industrial wind turbines to be constructed as close as seven miles offshore from Kaena Point and Barbers Point.
Two commercial wind developers submitted proposals last year for authority to construct hundreds of floating wind turbines capable of producing enough electricity to meet more than half of Oahu’s demand. BOEM has determined the project is worth consideration of an Oahu Call Area in two locations from seven to 35 miles offshore of Oahu.
The BOEM team and the administrator of Hawaii State Energy Office, Mark Glick, hosted a public informational meeting on June 23rd at Waialua Elementary School, one night after a similar meeting was held in Nanakuli and after other presentations in Honolulu.
Mr. Glick started off the meeting with an overview of Hawaii’s Clean Energy Initiative, which requires 100 percent electrical generation from renewable resources by the year 2045. Hawaii leads the nation in alternative energy production and we will continue to expand our diverse portfolio of energy production, which includes solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydrogen, and ocean energy.
Glick mentioned the controversial inter-island power cable plan from a few years ago that would have placed hundreds of windmills on Lanai and Molokai and cost billions of dollars. He noted that it was extremely unpopular on those islands and their opinion mattered. Readers may remember that I was one of the most outspoken critics in the House of Representatives, along with Rep. Cynthia Thielen, of that proposal in 2011 and 2012.
The BOEM representatives described the many steps and multi-year permitting process, stressing that offshore wind turbines in Hawaii are not a foregone conclusion. The next step in this federal review process is a call for interested wind developers to apply for permission to thoroughly study project feasibility. Simultaneously, an Environmental Assessment will be conducted. Approvals will also be needed from Hawaii regulators and agencies., should the project progress.
Not one person in the audience spoke in support of the project; rather, all comments were in strong opposition. As one community member pointed out, a list of pros and cons reveals some positive benefits, but many more adverse effects that should lead to any easy decision to not proceed. Expressed concerns include adverse effects on bird and fish migration routes between Oahu and Kauai, restrictions to boaters and fishing, large number of bird deaths, environmental impacts from the underwater power cable, the importance of Kaena Point to Native Hawaiians, and visual blight, particularly in the evening.
Public comments are encouraged on the proposed Environmental Assessment and the proposed projects until August 8, 2016. Although BOEM believes that competitive interest may exist, a formal determination will be made after the close of the comment period. They request comments and information from interested and affected parties about site conditions, resources, and existing uses within or in close proximity to the Oahu Call Area that would be relevant to BOEM's review of any nominations.
Information about the offshore wind review process is at boem.gov/Hawaii.
You can submit comments on the project by entering BOEM–2016–0049 in the search window at Regulations.gov
You can submit comments on the Environmental Assessment by entering BOEM_FRDOC_0001-0380 in the search window at Regulations.gov