Kahuku wind farm plan challenged again
A Hawaii environmental group hailed by Kahuku residents made a new bid to stop development of a third wind farm on Oahu’s North Shore on Wednesday.
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A Hawaii environmental group hailed by Kahuku residents made
a new bid to stop development of
a third wind farm on Oahu’s North Shore on Wednesday.
Life of the Land filed a claim with the state that seeks to invalidate a 2013 power purchase agreement between Hawaiian Electric Co. and the planned Na Pua Makani project with eight or nine turbines not far from homes, farms and a school.
The claim, a motion for relief delivered to the state Public Utilities Commission by attorney Lance Collins, was cheered by about 50 Kahuku community members who gathered inside the Territorial Office Building housing the PUC and communicated their opposition message with signs and chanting.
“Ku kiai Kahuku! Ku kiai Kahuku!” the group called out. “Aole turbines! Aole turbines!”
That message — about guarding Kahuku and saying no, or aole, to turbines — rang loud in the echo chamber of the main lobby of the downtown building also known as Kekuanaoa.
Collins said the motion generally challenges the power purchase agreement on two points.
One alleges that the PUC failed to consider the impact of greenhouse gas emissions tied to the project.
“They didn’t do that in this case at all,” Collins said, explaining that delivering and building the renewable energy project will produce greenhouse gas.
The other contention is that the project developer failed to acquire control of the state-owned site for the wind farm within a PUC deadline.
Collins said the developer missed a 120-day deadline because it didn’t receive a permit for incidental Hawaiian hoary bat deaths until six months after the PUC
“You don’t have an incidental take permit, you don’t have site control,” he said.
Representatives of the project’s developer, Virginia-
based AES Corp. doing business as Na Pua Makani Power Partners, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The project, proposed in 2009, has been taken over twice by different developers and has overcome
challenges including a
contested-case hearing at the state Board of Land and Natural Resources that was affirmed by a state Circuit Court judge earlier this year. The court decision is being appealed.
Project developers have said the 25-megawatt farm will produce enough energy to power about 9,000 homes at half the cost of burning oil.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which is leasing the project site to AES, has said the wind farm will eliminate
$4 million of annual foreign oil imports, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1 million tons over 20 years and help meet the state’s goal of deriving all electricity from renewable sources by 2045.
Under a $2 million community benefits commitment, the Kahuku community would receive $10,000 for every turbine, every year, as long as the turbines are operating, with a minimum of 20 years.
Na Pua Makani officials have said turbines will be farther from the community than required by a minimum setback of about 500 feet under Honolulu City and County rules.
However, some Kahuku residents oppose the project because they say it’s too close to homes, farms and schoolchildren.
The nearest turbine was slated be about 2,000 feet away from homes and
2,205 feet from Kahuku Elementary School.
Jessica dos Santos, president of Ku Kiai Kahuku, said AES representatives disclosed at a community meeting Tuesday that the closest turbines now would be 1,648 feet from a residential area and 1,750 feet from the school.
“We feel that we were lied to,” she said.
Dos Santos also said the closest farms where people reside would be only
750 feet from a turbine. “We feel that it is completely unjust and completely unacceptable to have the farms be that close,” she said.
State Sen. Gil Riviere (D, Heeia-Laie-
Waialua) attended the rally and said many in the community feel that their voice hasn’t been heard.
“I’m here in support of the community,” said Riviere, who is also a director with the community group Keep the North Shore Country that brought the contested-case hearing over Na Pua Makani. “It’s a real big issue. Why does Kahuku have to bear the burden of all the wind energy?”
If built, Na Pua Makani would be the
second wind farm in Kahuku and the third on the North Shore. A 30-megawatt farm by First Wind in Kahuku was completed in 2011, and the 69-megawatt Kawailoa Wind project northeast of Haleiwa was completed in 2012.
AES projects taking
18 months to build its project and most recently projected operations starting in May.