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Lanai wind farm would be too expensive and harm island’s environment

I am writing to voice my concerns about the state’s proposed Oahu industrial wind power plant on Lanai (the so-called “Big Wind” project).

I am from Lanai and a student at the University of Hawaii at Hilo majoring in Hawaiian studies. While I am an enthusiastic advocate for energy conservation and reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels, I am also an advocate for preserving the increasingly vanishing parts of Hawaii that are so fundamental to who we are as a population.

Further, I am concerned that the projected cost for this project so far outweighs the economic benefits and will wind up costing the taxpayers and ratepayers an outrageous amount of money that could be much more productively invested in less intermittent, more productive alternative renewable energy.

Lanai is a special place. It is the last wholly intact plantation town in Maui County, with a small island population, many of whom feed their families with axis deer, mouflon sheep and freshly caught fish. One of the major sources of those self-sufficient food sources is the same area targeted by this industrial wind power plant. Some 170 towers, each as tall as Honolulu’s First Hawaiian Bank building (410 feet tall) could be built on one-quarter of Lanai’s 89,000 acres, destroying archeological, cultural and historical resources and significantly impeding – or outright destroying – the hunting and fishing activities on this part of Lanai.

All the electricity generated by these turbines will travel through the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary via a 70-mile undersea cable. The electricity does not come back to Lanai. In fact, very little of this huge and expensive project comes back to Lanai. Short-term construction jobs will be primarily for highly skilled technicians. Long-term jobs for Lanai residents will most probably be landscaping jobs, and if they’re anything like those at Lanai’s solar farm, all six positions will be reserved for sheep.

The projected costs for this project were, in 2008 dollars, approximately $3 billion – or $2,300 for every child and adult in Hawaii. Assuming an average cost of $40,000 for installing photovoltaic panels on the average Hawaii house, $3 billion could cover 75,000 homes. Or, every household on Oahu (400,000) could have solar hot water.

Please support our state’s efforts to reduce our dependence on imported oil. Please support efforts to have conservation of electricity drive our daily lives. And please support alternative energy.

But please do not support this Oahu industrial wind power plant on Lanai that is too expensive and has a negative cost/benefit to taxpayers, ratepayers and all Hawaii residents. It is an example of “green greed,” that benefits the developers through artificial government tax credits and not the people of Hawaii.

Brenden Ka’aikala, a resident of Lanai, is currently studying at UH-Hilo. He has created a project to find out how many people oppose the wind farms, at www. causes.com/causes/494256?m=0d43bb06. Also: More on the wind-farm proposal can be viewed at friendsoflanai.org/.