Military, environmental, Native Hawaiian and other community representatives voiced concerns Wednesday about a Danish company’s plans for two floating wind farms off the shores of Oahu.
AW Hawaii Wind LLC, a subsidiary of Denmark-based Alpha Wind Energy, is planning a $1.6 billion project that consists of 102 wind turbines – 51 located 17 miles south of Diamond Head and another 51 located 12 miles northwest of Kaena Point. The company said the turbines could provide about 30 percent of Oahu’s electric power needs.
The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism hosted a meeting to discuss the project. Among those attending were the U.S. Navy, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Marine Corps, National Park Service, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and the University of Hawaii.
Doug Boren, chief of the renewable energy section of BOEM Pacific Region, said, “This is the beginning of the process,” and that nothing has been decided yet.
The NOAA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said they wanted to know more about the effect the turbines and the cables that connect them to Oahu would have on marine life.
The Coast Guard and Federal Aviation Administration were concerned how the turbines would impact aircraft and vessel communication.
The Coast Guard is concerned that electromagnetic fields might disrupt vessels’ navigation systems, said Ulysses Mullins, prevention department head at U.S. Coast Guard Sector Honolulu.
The FAA said it would be interested in how the wind farms would affect the airways as the turbines may give false radar readings.
Nicole Griffin of the Marine Corps said it would be important to know the likelihood of the project’s success when reviewed by the state Public Utilities Commission and Hawaiian Electric Co. considering the number of stakeholders involved.
“Over the past five years we have gone through a couple fire drills with offshore wind developments. Is the project executable? We are all going to put in a boatload of work to do this,” Griffin said.
Community members requested that the public be considered by the agencies as a stakeholder.
Makani Ortogero-Clarke, a Haleiwa resident, said she wanted the agencies to reach out to the community.
“The real nexus point is the community that is affected by it,” Ortogero-Clarke said. “Perhaps the agencies should be engaging the community already. Just remember, it actually comes down to the people first.”
Ron Tam, secretary of the Hawai‘i Fishermen’s Alliance for Conservation and Tradition, said he was worried about the wind farms’ influence on deep-water and nearshore fishing.
Tam said he was concerned about the impact the turbines would have on bird patterns, as seabirds are key to finding fish.
“What is the best fish finder there is? Birds,” Tam said. “The fishermen are going to be involved and impacted.”
Tam said he would like the agencies to include fishermen as part of the process.
“Science is good. Data is great, but empirical evidence, knowledge and thoughts on what potential impact is on a stakeholder needs to be included beyond the regulatory concerns today,” Tam said.
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