A proposed new wind farm project on Oahu’s west side has already come under fire, even though the project is in its infancy with final plans subject to studies, community input and regulatory approval.
The 46.8-megawatt Palehua Wind project, which would see 13 wind turbines being erected along the Waianae Range, will be capable of generating 150,000 megawatt-hours of energy per, enough to power 25,000 homes.
On Nov. 21, project developer Eurus Energy America said its subsidiary EE Ewa LLC reached a 22-year power purchase agreement with Hawaiian Electric Co. for the proposed wind farm.
The project, which is expected to be operational by December 2022, would help increase the utility’s renewable energy portfolio by 2 percentage points over its contractual lifespan, bringing Hawaii a step closer to its goal of reaching 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
In addition, revenue generated from electricity sales would help finance Gill ‘Ewa Lands’ restoration efforts in the Palehua area, including reducing the risk of erosion and brushfires.
Just days after Eurus and HECO announced the signing of their PPA, Honolulu City Council member Kymberly Marcos Pine voiced her opposition in regard to the project.
“Like many in Leeward Oahu, I was shocked to learn through the news that Eurus Energy is moving forward with installing over a dozen wind turbines in the hills of Palehua, a sacred area for the Native Hawaiian community,” Pine said in a statement issued on Nov. 28.
“When I first met with a representative of the proposed wind turbine project months ago I expressed my personal opposition, but asked Eurus Energy to ask the community for their permission and mana‘o. After a fierce Neighborhood Board meeting in April where the Board and many in the community opposed the project for its perceived insensitivity to the area, many including myself were under the belief that this project would not proceed until those concerns were addressed,” she added.
PBN reached out to Councilwoman Pine for additional information but did not hear back before publication.
Asked about the councilwomen’s comments, San Diego-based Eurus Energy America said that the company is committed to work with local community members to address their concerns, but called the recent opposition premature.
“It seemed early and premature,” Nick Henriksen, vice president, development at Eurus Energy America Corp, told Pacific Business News. “We’re relatively early on in the process, a lot of the configuration and the design of the project itself will result from the studies that will be done, both from a biological or environmental type studies focusing on flora and fauna, but also the cultural studies that go into the permitting process. So, those studies are required by law in order to actually go through the permitting process. We selected the site with that in mind.”
Henriksen said the company will ramp up the level and the frequency of studies next year, which will ultimately lead to a permit filing. He declined to provide a specific time frame, saying the permit filing date is determined by the results of the studies.
Eurus Energy told PBN that the company is in the process of setting up a meeting with Councilwoman Pine to address her concerns.
Meanwhile, serial entrepreneur Henk Rogers, an outspoken advocate for renewable energy and supporter of the Palehua Wind project, said Hawaii’s mentality of opposing almost any project hurts the state and its residents in the long term.
“Hawaii has a NIMBY issue – not in my backyard,” Rogers told Pacific Business News. “It’s actually a little bit worse. I call it BANANA, which is ‘build almost nothing anywhere near anything.’ Based on that, people will try to stop almost any project.”
Rogers, who is most famous for buying the rights to the video game Tetris and making the game an international hit, is convinced that the failure to embrace new technologies keeps Hawaii behind the eight ball.
“We should be the example for all the islands in the Pacific, but when we fight the transition to renewable energy or technology or all those things, basically what we are doing is keeping Hawaii behind the times, or sending it backward instead of going forward,” he said. “I’d like to see the Hawaiian community get behind some project and say, ‘Yeah that’s a good thing.’ Rather then come out only say that’s a bad thing.”
Eurus Energy in a previous interview declined to disclose the project’s costs.
Hawaiian Electric spokesperson Peter Rosegg told PBN that the Waianae Range is the last economically viable location for a wind farm on Oahu.
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