A proposed new 46.8-megawatt wind farm on Oahu’s west side is encountering public pushback with communities along the island’s Leeward Coast feeling “disrespected” by the news of a signed agreement between electric utility company Hawaiian Electric Co. and renewable energy developer Eurus Energy America Corp. in the face of their concerns and questions.
“Any project that comes to the Leeward Coast is going to have to deal with the historical effects of people disrespecting the community,” Honolulu City Council member Kymberly Marcos Pine, representing District 1, told Pacific Business News in a recent interview.
She said that members of her district feel that they are dumped on a lot, without having their voices heard. “Everybody should have a voice. Nobody is more important than the other,” Pine said.
The councilwoman pointed to the Waimanalo Gulch landfill, which despite its name is not located in Waimanalo, and the city’s H-POWER facility, which uses solid waste as an energy source, as examples of projects that went ahead despite community concerns.
“It’s very clear from the reaction in my community that they felt blindsided,” Pine said about the proposed Palehua Wind project, which calls for the construction of 13 wind turbines on the Waianae mountain range.
HECO and San Diego-based Eurus Energy filed the project agreement for review with the state Public Utilities Commission on Nov. 21.
The project, if approved by the PUC, is capable of generating about 150,000 megawatt-hours of renewable energy annually, enough to power about 25,000 homes, HECO and Eurus Energy stated in a joint press release.
Eurus Energy Holdings, jointly owned by Japan’s Toyota Tsusho Corp. and Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., called the public criticism premature.
“It seemed early and premature,” Nick Henriksen, vice president of development at Eurus Energy America Corp., said in a previous interview. “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.”
While Pine acknowledged that the project is still in its infancy, she said the developer’s decision to move ahead with the project despite the many unanswered questions is a cause for concern in the community.
“If people believe in [this wind project] so much, put it in their district,” Pine said. “We have been very gracious in my district to take all the bad stuff. A lot of times unbeknownst to us that it’s coming. We recently had [a public meeting] on the climate change action plan at Kapolei Hale, and not a single person in my group wanted a wind farm in Hawaii, period.”
The Waianae range is the last economically viable location for a wind farm on Oahu, Peter Rosegg, spokesman for Hawaiian Electric, said.
Pine told PBN that she had scheduled a meeting with Eurus Energy representatives shortly before Christmas.
The councilwoman also strongly rejected the idea that the Leeward Coast is not pulling its weight when it comes to Hawaii’s pursuit of achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
“My community is insulted when their responses are considered not innovative or contributing to the future of Hawaii,” she said. “We have more solar on rooftops, solar farms and renewable energy plants than any other district in the island. So for anyone to say that we are not contributing to a renewable future, it’s just the opposite. Other districts are not as innovative as we are. We have valleys that are consumed by solar farms. We have taken on a lot, and we encourage other people in this state to be as innovative as we have been.”
One of those projects is the 27.6-MW Waianae Solar project, which is the largest solar facility in the state and coincidentally also operated by Eurus Energy.
Though the Palehua Wind project got off to a rocky start, Pine is not completely shutting the door on the issue.
“If they want to take the time to understand that what has happened in the past, the Leeward Coast is open to all projects,” she said.
Meanwhile, HECO announced that it will add another solar-plus-storage project on Oahu’s west side. The new renewable project is set to feature a 12.5-MW solar array and a 50-MWh storage component.