The Board of Land and Natural Resources has approved a state land lease for Na Pua Makani, the mainland firm with the Hawaiian project name who plans to construct eight or nine gargantuan wind turbines in Kahuku. The new turbines will tower hundreds of feet higher into the sky and be located half as far away from the town as the existing turbines. The new project and the existing wind farm will surround Kahuku.
Kent Fonoimoana, President of the Kahuku Community Association, and I waited five and a half hours through a long agenda to testify against approval of the lease. We were the only two people to testify in opposition, while the developer and a few project consultants testified in support.
Fonoimoana contradicted developer claims that the project has community support by citing petitions against and opposing motions from Kahuku Community Association and the Koolauloa Neighborhood Board. I spoke about the unreasonableness of the size and proximity of the turbines, the likelihood that the developer will flip this project, and the paltry benefits package.
When the predecessor to Na Pua Makani began promoting this wind project in 2008, it was estimated the turbines would be about 400’ tall. A few years ago, when this company began community engagement and the environmental review process, they talked about turbines possibly reaching 500’. Somewhere along the way, the turbine size has grown to 656’!
I asked, rhetorically, when turbines would be considered too tall and adversely impact Hawaii’s natural beauty. I said these turbines fit that description: they are too tall for this location, less than a half mile from the high school and houses. The tallest building in Honolulu is the height of the existing Kahuku turbines (428’) and the new ones will be 228’ taller again.
Some supporters of the project point to the proposed community benefits package. The developer verbally committed to provide $10,000 per year per turbine into a community benefits fund. This annual donation was originally estimated to be as much as $140,000, but now may be as low as $80,000. As the turbine size increases, the number of turbines and the associated benefits package decreases. $100 per year per area resident is surely not enough compensation.
I reject the notion that the only way Hawaii can achieve 100% renewable energy production is by installing gigantic wind turbines in Kahuku, above Waimea Bay and offshore of Kaena Point. Diversified rooftop solar energy with battery backup becomes more economical every day, and excess solar energy can be used to produce hydrogen, a portable, storable energy that can power cars and provide electricity at night. All technologies have their pros and cons. We must not be bullied into non-critical acceptance of any one technology.
Only one approval remains before this new wind farm is cleared to proceed. The BLNR will consider acceptance of Na Pua Makani’s Habitat Conservation Plan on October 28, 2016. I will be there.