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Fewer but taller wind turbines proposed for Kahuku

A developer for a proposed new wind farm in Kahuku has unveiled a plan that calls for fewer turbines, but those turbines could be substantially taller than originally proposed.

Na Pua Makani’s proposal last year called for ten turbines. It says because of increased efficiency, it could now produce the same amount of energy with nine, or even eight turbines.

But instead of a maximum height of 512 feet, the new turbines could be as tall as 656 feet:

“That’s the tallest potential turbine we could apply, and we haven’t made that selection, so they could be shorter than that,” said Michael Cutbirth, president and CEO of Na Pua Makani Power Partners.

Opponents say that’s way too tall, pointing out that they would be taller than the First Hawaiian Bank Building, the state’s tallest at 429 feet.

“The bigger the turbine, the more megawatts they can produce, too. So there’s benefits on their side. But on our side, the bigger the turbines, the less sleep maybe somebody’s gonna get,” said Kent Fonoimoana of the Kahuku Community Association. He said the noise from the existing wind farm sometimes wakes him up at night.

Supporters are glad there could be fewer of the energy-producing towers.

“It may take away some of the turbines, so they’ll make the same amount of power but there’ll be lesser turbines, so we’ll see lesser turbines,” said Kahuku resident and wind farm supporter Melissa Primacio, “Not only that, but gradually with technology, everything gets bigger and better.”

Some who attended an open house Thursday night in Kahuku to view the latest proposal said they were taken by surprise by the taller turbines.

“We’re for renewable energy. Just do your studies and make the community aware of what’s going on. Don’t try to circumvent the community,” said Matt Mamizuka, another Kahuku resident, but one who opposes the project.

It’s already been three years since the original plans were proposed for the project, and it will take even more time for the new draft environmental impact statement to be approved. Construction is still far down the road.