Community leaders in Leeward Oahu are voicing opposition to the Palehua Wind project proposed for the Waianae range above their homes.
City Councilwoman Kymberly Marcos Pine said she and other leeward community members were taken by surprise at news of Eurus Energy America Corp.’s purchase-power agreement with Hawaiian Electric Co. that entails a 13-turbine wind farm above the Kahe Power Plant since they had earlier expressed concerns about it.
Pine said in a news release that it was disappointing Eurus and landowner Gill ‘Ewa Lands were going forward with the Palehua Wind project without more consultation with residents.
“We believe on the West Side that everything has to go through a public process and that we all have to work together to agree on something and it’s how we work,” she said. “The process can be a little longer, but we believe in a public process. It’s part of our culture.”
Pine described Palehua as “a sacred area for the Native Hawaiian community” that includes a preserved pa, or stone enclosure used as a “star-guide” to determine the arrival of the makahiki festival. “The impact these 260-foot turbines would have on this one of many sacred spaces in Palehua remains unknown,” she said.
Eurus, the North American arm of Eurus Energy Holdings of Tokyo, in November finalized a purchase- power agreement with HECO for Palehua Wind, a 46.8-megawatt wind farm that could generate enough energy for 25,000 homes. Eurus’s EE Ewa LLC would sell electricity to HECO at a set cost of 10.9 cents per kilowatt-hour over a 22-year term.
The agreement was submitted to the Public Utilities Commission for review Nov. 21.
The PUC is still in the early process of review, according to executive officer Del Won, which would generally include a preliminary position by the consumer advocate and opportunity for parties to seek intervention, including public hearings. He could not say what the timeframe would be for a decision, which could take months.
Eurus Energy America Corp. Vice President of Development Nick Henriksen said the company did reach out to the community prior to the purchase-power agreement.
“As a long-term project owner-operator of renewable projects on Oahu and around the world, Eurus Energy believes strongly in engaging with the community on this proposed project at every appropriate stage of the project development cycle,” said Henriksen in a statement.
“In line with this community-based approach, we have had multiple ongoing dialogues over the past year with different groups in the community, including holding an open public meeting on April 4, 2018, that was attended by approximately 50 people, to share conceptual information about this project and begin the community engagement process in advance of further negotiations with Hawaiian Electric.”
With the purchase-power agreement in place, Henriksen said the company will continue to engage with the community to address concerns. “Furthermore, as required by state and federal regulations, we will be conducting comprehensive on-site environmental and cultural assessments to identify potential concerns and outline approaches for mitigation of project impacts,” he said.
The permitting process is expected to take years, and the project, if approved, could be operational by the end of 2022.
Tony Gill, spokesman for Gill ‘Ewa Lands, said no cultural sites would be damaged by the wind turbines. Gill ‘Ewa Lands purchased the property with the specific intention of preserving cultural and archaeological sites, he said, and has conducted numerous studies of the sites, including the pa (stone closure) mentioned by Pine.
He said the wind farm project will help restore the ecosystem in the area and prevent fires and erosion.
“We solemnly and deeply intend to preserve the archaeological and cultural sites,” Gill said. “There’s absolutely nothing about the status quo that helps that, though.”
Kioni Dudley, former chairman and member of the Makakilo-Kapolei- Honokai Hale Neighborhood Board, said he remains adamantly opposed to the project.
In late April, when he was chairman, the neighborhood board voted unanimously to oppose the project, expressing concerns over its impacts on animal habitats, particularly pueo (owls), as well as cultural sites and view planes.
“I don’t think I can stress how opposed I am to it,” he said. “This is just berserk. To destroy the natural beauty is just insane.”
Dudley said he is reminded of this every time he drives past Waimea Bay on Oahu’s North Shore and sees the Kahuku wind turbines.
“I very definitely do support the energy goals but I think this is a terrible mistake,” he said. “I think putting photovoltaic on top of houses is the way to go. If we put PV on every house, we wouldn’t have any need for windmills.”
Patty Kahanamoku- Teruya of the Nanakuli-Maili Neighborhood Board said a similar wind farm was proposed a few years ago and the community did not support it then.
“Now this has come up again. It caught us by surprise,” she said. “They have not come out to Waianae.”
The neighborhood board put the proposed wind farm on its agenda for its next meeting this month, she said, and has asked a Eurus representative to attend. She said the community is concerned about the view planes and ecological sites, and does not want Eurus to move forward with the permit process without talking to the community first.
“The Waianae Coast has been ignored and taken advantage of all the time when developers and contractors come out there,” she said. “We would like to be part of the planning and what’s going on. Nanakuli and Waianae didn’t have an opportunity to hear this.”
Pine said she would staunchly oppose the Palehua Wind project unless the community is re- engaged, and cultural and environmental concerns are resolved.