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Remembering Big Wind’s Big Fail On Lanai  

Credit:  The lesson for concerned communities is to “just say no” and to never give up. | By Robin Kaye | Honolulu Civil Beat | September 26, 2022 | www.civilbeat.org ~~

Kirstin Downey’s recent article (“The Struggle Over Towering Wind Farms Is At The Center Of A Honolulu City Council Debate,” Sept. 21) rightly highlights the Kahuku community’s critical role in helping to inform public opinion regarding the negative community impacts of industrial wind power plants.

She writes: “When they first arrived in Hawaii about a decade ago, the turbines were initially welcomed but North Shore residents were shocked by their huge size and disturbed to learn they posed deadly hazards for endangered wildlife, particularly the opeapea bat on the North Shore. But opposition hardened when the big towers came to Kahuku three years ago.”

While that’s accurate (although the first wind turbines arrived on the Big Island’s South Point in 1987), it overlooks the role of the Lanai community’s opposition to the now defunct Big Wind proposals for Lanai and Molokai in Hawaii’s love/hate affair with industrial wind power plants.

First proposed in 2007 – 15 years ago – Big Wind on Lanai was David Murdock’s and then-Gov. Linda Lingle’s scheme to install 170 wind turbines that would irretrievably alter – and environmentally destroy – almost 25% of Lanai’s land. The giant turbines would generate electricity to be delivered via an undersea cable to power Oahu’s ever-increasing demand for electricity.

The project divided this small island of 3,000 people in ways that are still being felt today. It was touted as a panacea for those hungry to achieve the state’s goal of 100% renewable energy. But to many Lanaians, it was seen as an environmentally destructive scheme designed primarily to enrich the landowner.

The community’s consistent and vocal opposition – despite the project’s support from many legislators, two governors, an abundance of state bureaucrats, Hawaiian Electric, the ILWU and others – eventually killed the project. The unwillingness of Lanai’s new and current majority landowner to support the destruction of “his” island, put the final nail in the coffin of Big Wind on Lanai.

Several community members from Kahuku came to Lanai years ago, and asked Friends of Lanai, the group formed to lead the opposition to Big Wind, for advice during this divisive time. We told them to “just say no,” rather than trying to set restrictions and/or conditions on the placement of wind turbines in their neighborhood.

They did not follow that recommendation, and I wonder what those members, looking back, think now.

Time passes, and many have forgotten – or never knew – the lessons learned from the Big Wind struggle. With time, Kahuku’s lessons will likely fade as well. There will be new administrations, and new profit-seeking corporations wanting to capitalize on resources in small communities.

The message for me is that the community needs to be involved early and frequently if it’s targeted to be the site of industrial power plants, of any flavor, and it has to “just say no” frequently, continuously and loudly. Never give up or give in.

Source:  The lesson for concerned communities is to “just say no” and to never give up. | By Robin Kaye | Honolulu Civil Beat | September 26, 2022 | www.civilbeat.org

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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