Plans to transport heavy equipment and parts for AES’s Na Pua Makani wind farm to a Kahuku site overnight Sunday were put on hold after opponents of the project gathered at the AES yard in Kalaeloa to peacefully protest and block the transport.
The company’s plan was to move the large parts for the turbines from Sunday to Thursday night between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. when the impact on traffic would be minimal.
“After considering a multitude of factors in real-time last night, we decided to hold back to ensure we can safely execute the component transport to Na Pua Makani with as minimal disruption to residents as possible,” Mark Miller, AES chief operating officer for US generation said to PBN in a statement. “We are coordinating a complex move that relies on collaboration with government agencies, such as the Honolulu Police Department and Department of Transportation, to keep the roads and community-at-large are safe as we make our way up to the North Shore.”
When completed the eight, 568-foot tall wind turbines can generate 27-megawatts, power 16,000 homes – or roughly 4% of the households on Oahu – and save 70,000 tons of CO2 annually. The company dubs it as one of the lowest-cost wind projects in the state. The electricity generated would be purchased by the Hawaiian Electric Company to meet Oahu’s needs and increase the Island’s renewable energy generation.
Slated to be operational in 2020, the project has been several years in the making. While the project has already has obtained the necessary permits and received the regulatory green light, there is still a pending court appeal.
“We respect people’s passion for voicing their opinions,” Miller said. “Dialogue is important, and we have done a tremendous amount of work to understand how the project impacts this community and what we can do to become a good community partner. We’ve committed $4.5 million in community benefits and continue working with community members to determine how we can find the most meaningful way to give back to the community.”
Opponents of the project claim that the turbines will negatively impact the Kahuku community due to noise, its proximity to the community and the safety of the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat. Several years ago the original planned quantity of turbines decreased – from between 13 to 15 turbines down to eight turbines – due to public comment.
According to the company’s website, which addresses these concerns, a full noise study was conducted as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment to ensure operational sound reaching the Kahuku residential area and neighboring schools will stay at or below the Hawaii Department of Health sound level limit at night. In the Kahuku residential area, the sound level will not exceed 45 decibels, which is a similar sound level to light traffic in Kahuku.
The company also proposed a plan to mitigate the endangered bat population through prevention like a supplemental bat deterrent system, monitoring by the Division of Forestry and Wildlife and other agencies, and an investment of $4.3 million to support research and habitat restoration.
Oahu’s North Shore is already home to SunEdison’s 30-megawatt Kahuku Wind and 69-megawatt Kawailoa Wind farms.
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