Promises Hawaiian Electric Co. and Castle & Cooke have made to Lanai in exchange for being allowed to build a wind farm on the island are a starting point for discussions on the wind farm, the vice chairman of the state senate committee on energy and the environment said Tuesday.
Sen. Kalani English spoke at committee hearing at the state Capitol on the status of proposals to build large wind farms on Lanai and Molokai and deliver the power to Oahu and Maui by undersea cable.
He said the Lanai community would ask for additional benefits and the companies will have to find a way to make some of them possible if a wind farm is going to be built on the island.
“We’re all in this together. Oahu really has to understand that Lanai and Molokai is giving up a lot,” English said.
Hawaiian Electric, a subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc., is pushing to create alternative sources of energy to comply with a 2009 state law requiring the state’s electric utilities to get 40 percent of their power from renewable resources by 2030.
Hawaiian Electric, which provides power to all the state’s counties except Kauai, currently only gets about 10 percent of its energy from renewable resources.
Castle & Cooke, which owns 98 percent of Lanai, is proposing to build the Lanai wind farm. First Wind, which has built wind farms across on Maui and across the country, wants to build a large farm on Molokai.
Hawaiian Electric and Castle & Cooke last week announced a list of ways Lanai would benefit if the wind farm were built.
Castle & Cooke promised to set aside 1 percent of all wind farm revenues for a fund controlled by the community for whatever purpose Lanai residents see fit. The company also promises to continue to allow residents to access to hunting and fishing spots.
Hawaiian Electric said Lanai electricity rates would be slashed by about 40 percent to match those on Oahu.
“We’re committed to making sure there are benefits for the community,” Harry Saunders, president of Castle & Cooke Hawaii, said at the hearing.
The senator noted Lanai and Molokai are routinely neglected and lawmakers have to fight for every scrap of funds they’re able to get for them.
“Then when we come and ‘we say we need you to save the rest of the industrialized islands,’ you don’t blame them for saying ‘we need these things’,” English said.
Sen. Roz Baker, D-Honokohau-Makena, said the list of community benefits the companies put out failed to say how they might lessen the impact of the wind mills.
Baker said she’d like to hear whether the companies could manage with fewer windmills.
“I could make a case that even if this is state policy, that it’s too awful what would be done to Lanai. It’s too much to ask them. And that’s what some of our constituents are saying,” Baker said.
Government agencies next month plan to hold meetings on Oahu, Maui, Molokai and Lanai for an environmental impact statement on the wind power and inter-island cable proposals.
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