Police asked for the public’s help Monday in finding people responsible for two vandalism cases related to a controversial Kahuku wind farm.
CrimeStoppers and the Honolulu Police Department said they are looking for suspects involved in damage done to the foundation of a Kahuku turbine sometime before 8 a.m. Sunday. They are also looking for suspects involved in the cutting down of a utility pole that temporarily blocked a convoy of wind turbine parts from being delivered early Friday.
The reports of vandalism came as protesters prepared Monday night to block the wind farm developer from moving equipment for a third night.
On Sunday night and early Monday morning, 40 protesters were arrested
after they refused police orders to move out of the way of trucks carrying wind turbine equipment. That followed the arrest of 55 people Thursday night and early Friday morning.
Virginia-based AES Corp. has won government approval to build eight wind turbines on state land in Kahuku. The company is permitted to deliver turbine parts from Sunday nights through Friday mornings between
11 p.m. and 5 a.m. The company expects that it could take until Nov. 26
to deliver all the equipment.
“An unknown suspect or suspects damaged bolts attached to the foundation of a Kahuku turbine,” police said Monday. “One or more suspects were seen fleeing into the brush area leading to Kahuku High School.”
Police added, “An unknown suspect or suspects used a chain saw to cut down a wooden utility pole along Kamehameha Highway in Sunset Beach. The pole fell onto the highway, cutting electricity to hundreds of homes and blocking traffic in both directions. Part of the chain saw was recovered at the scene.”
Police said these are first-degree criminal property damage cases punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000 and restitution.
Mark Miller, chief operating officer for the AES US Generation businesses, said in an email, “We are working closely with the Honolulu Police Department regarding an act of vandalism that occurred on the project site over the weekend. The incident, while troubling, will not impact the ongoing work to transport and construct the Na Pua Makani wind project.”
“We again want to thank the Honolulu Police Department, Department of Transportation — and, most especially, the residents
of Kahuku and the North Shore — for their continued help and support throughout our transport process,” Miller wrote.
Earlier Monday three wind turbine blades as long as jumbo jet wings were delivered to the Na Pua Makani wind farm site in Kahuku.
Police said 27 protesters were arrested Sunday night in Kalaeloa and 13 were
arrested in Kahuku attempting to stop delivery of the turbine blades. The protesters were arrested for disobedience to a police officer. They all posted bail — $100 for first-time and $500 for
second offenses — and were released.
In Kahuku there were some subdued feelings among demonstrators after the delivery of the turbine blades, but also hope and fortitude that the project can be stopped.
“This is a committed community,” said state Sen. Gil Riviere (D, Heeia-Laie-
Waialua) after witnessing the arrests Monday morning. “There is no backing down.”
Each turbine blade, stretching 223 feet, was
carried on a trailer and had its own blinking red light on the tip. By comparison, the wingspan of a Boeing 747 is 224 feet.
Eddie Pula, a 38-year-old Kaaawa resident who was born and raised in Kahuku, spent several hours at the Kahuku demonstration site after seeing accounts on Facebook showing arrests taking place in Kalaeloa.
“I saw a lot of my friends and neighbors arrested earlier,” he said. “It seems the powers that be have too much power.”
Ponciano, president of Ku Kiai Kahuku, the group opposing the wind farm, said it’s heartening that people from communities beyond Kahuku are helping in the cause to defeat Na Pua Makani.
Ponciano estimated the crowd of Ku Kiai Kahuku supporters at about
150 people early Monday.
“It’s love,” she said. “Everybody is willing to come together and stand with us, sacrifice their time, holding space with us and willing to get arrested. That speaks volumes to a community. It’s pretty amazing. I definitely don’t feel defeated.”
Na Pua Makani would be the third wind farm on
Oahu’s North Shore, but the project’s turbines would be taller and closer to farms, homes and Kahuku Elementary School.
Each turbine including blades would be 568 feet tall. The closest turbine would be 0.3 mile from the nearest homes and Kahuku Elementary School, and
0.1 mile from the nearest farm.
Although some Kahuku residents support Na Pua Makani, which has committed to contribute $4.5 million in community benefits, many area residents say the turbines lead to health problems that include migraines, nausea and other physiological symptoms caused by constant noises and shadows from the spinning blades. Opponents of the project also say it’s wrong to allow the project to incidentally kill Hawaiian hoary bats under a state permit.
AES said its wind turbines will have no ill health effects and have obtained all regulatory approvals after numerous public meetings and legal challenges. The company also said it will mitigate bat deaths by improving bat habitat.
The 25-megawatt wind farm is scheduled to start operating next year and has the capacity to produce enough renewable energy to power about 15,000 homes at about the same cost as oil-fired power while helping the state reach its goal for 100% renewable energy by 2045.