HONOLULU – Supporters and opponents of neighbor island wind farms came down to the state capitol Tuesday to argue about alternate energy developments that seem inevitable.
Its not clear if opponents coming to the capitol can prevent the 200 megawatt wind farms planned for Lanai and Molokai. They are intended to help the state meet alternate energy goals set by the legislature.
But Anela Evans said the development will be too disruptive. “Sustainability is important,” Evans said. “But not at the cost of losing our island and our lifestyle.”
Opponents fear that as much as a quarter of Lanai will be covered by wind blades hundreds of feet high, but Harry Saunders of Castle and Cooke said improving technology will make the wind farm footprint more acceptable.
“You are not going to have that same physical visual impact,” Saunders said.
But opponents also fear the impact on outdoor lifestyles, the small town atmosphere. They also said they think Castle and Cooke, which owns nearly the entire island, is withholding facts and pushing the development without full disclosure.
“It is a continuation of that plantation mentality perpetuated in the new model,” said former Lanai school principal Martha Evans.
Hunter John Ornellas said he doesn’t believe the company’s promise that it will continue to allow hunting and fishing access on west Lanai.
“Trust is a hard thing to swallow from Castle and Cooke,” Ornellas said.
Robin Kaye, a leader of Friends of Lanai, said many on the island still are afraid of the company, which controls almost all the jobs and rental housing.
“I’ve had two people in the last two weeks come up to me and put a $100 bill each of them into my hands and say that we are so supportive of stopping this wind farm project but we can’t be seen publicly,” Kaye said.
Saunders said most of the island’s population supports the proposal.
The wind farms would be linked to Oahu by undersea cable. Castle and Cooke said the united grid will lower electrical rates for the small islands while also building their economies. The company is also offering a percentage of the revenue for a community improvement fund.
“Our economies cannot depend on a single horse and that’s what Lanaians have been struggling with,” Saunders said.
But some opponents said they resent having to support Oahu’s demand for electricity,
“Each island should be independent amongst themselves,” said Anela Evans, “Not dependent on other islands and other people to feed their needs.”
Lawmakers don’t have a direct role in the developments – but said they do have enough clout to encourage both sides to keep talking.
The committees plan to air out the issues on Lanai and Molokai later this year.
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