Moloka‘i, the Friendly Isle, has been the focal point of a plan to build 90 windmills on the west side of the island. The Hawaiian Electric Company and Moloka‘i Ranch have joined Biological Capital, a mainland company, to construct these windmills to supply electric power to O’ahu. The federal government has promised tax subsidies, while Gov. Neil Abercrombie has indicated his approval of this plan.
As of the latest 2012 poll taken on Moloka‘i by I Aloha Moloka‘i, 93 percent of people disapprove of the windmill project. The windmills will require 17 square miles of undeveloped land, and a cable will need to be placed in the ocean to connect the windmills on Moloka‘i to O’ahu. The plan has continued to move forward despite community opposition and suspicion of the corporations behind it.
The people of Moloka‘i believe that the construction of the windmills will create irreparable ecological, social and cultural damage to the island. A few years ago, the people of Moloka‘i were told the project would not proceed if the community did not support it. The community spoke, yet the promises were not kept. Nobody denies that clean energy is needed, but the people of Moloka‘i cannot help but feel that this project is purely for the financial gain of a few. The health risks to humans and animals (e.g. cardiovascular, cancer risks) have been well-documented in the latest scientific studies published in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, The Moloka‘i Dispatch and other national and international publications.
Alternatives lie in the reduced consumption of fossil fuels, and there are numerous, already-proven technologies such as individual solar power. Wind power has not proven itself as a viable, self-sustaining resource that can operate on its own without the benefits of tax incentives provided by the federal government. No wind project has ever been shown to decrease the use of fossil fuels, as diesel generators are needed to backup the windmills in periods of no or low wind.
Despite the questionable benefits for O’ahu, the guaranteed negative impacts for Moloka‘i are many, according to I Aloha Moloka‘i: “A 10-25 percent reduction of the West Moloka‘i property values and rental incomes; a 30 percent increase in electricity bills; destruction of many archaeological and sacred sites … construction impacts (dust, blasting, traffic jams, etc.) will be huge for years; turbines are very loud and can be heard for up to five miles; many birds will be killed; the cable will go through the Southern Moloka‘i Reef (the largest in the U.S.) and will impact the endangered Hawaiian monk seals, whales, dolphins and turtles due to the electromagnetic fields and construction.”
Because more than 70 percent of the residents of Maunaloa Town are below the poverty line with their main source of food coming from fishing and hunting from the lands that the windmills will be built on, their way of living will be demolished.
These windmills will destroy the natural habitats of the island along with the people living there. Moloka‘i is being given nothing in return for the construction of these windmills and will be left with an industrial wasteland. Moloka‘i is priceless, and if the people of Moloka‘’i don’t stand up for it, who will?
Elenka Jacobs Sociology student
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