Wind farm developers looking to build in agricultural or country zones on Oahu must host a public hearing, present details to the area neighborhood board or community association and notify nearby property owners of the pending permit application, according to rule changes adopted by the Honolulu Planning Commission.
The commission’s six members voted unanimously Wednesday to change the City’s Land Use Ordinance. The changes now go to the City Council for approval, then the mayor has to sign off.
The changes were first proposed in 2015 and in April 2016 the City Council Committee on Zoning and Planning asked the Planning Commission to take up the issue.
If adopted, the changes would apply to developers looking to build wind turbine with more than 100 kilowatts of capacity or standing 400 feet tall.
The intent of the rule change is to provide greater opportunity for public input before a developer can obtain a permit, city officials said.
The new guidelines would not apply to a wind project planned for Kahuku. Na Pua Makani Power Partners LLC is planning to build a 25-megawatt wind farm with eight to ten turbines.
Na Pua Makani held several public hearings but was met with opposition from the community as the facility is the second wind farm near Kahuku. The city approved the project, and it will not be bound by the new guidelines.
Oahu will likely see more wind turbines as Hawaiian Electric Co. announced in January it is looking for developers to build wind projects on Oahu before a federal tax credit for wind power expires in 2019.
HECO said building wind projects before the tax credit expires would keep electrical rates low and help the utility reach the state’s goal of getting 100 percent of its electric power from renewable energy by 2045. The federal investment tax credit for large wind projects, which was 30 percent last year, decreased to 24 percent this year, drops to 18 percent in 2018, and ends at 12 percent in 2019.
The electrical utility said in a filing with state regulators in December that it plans to add 157 megawatts of utility-scale wind power across Maui, Oahu and the Big Island in the next five years.
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