Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Mayor rejects
Kahe wind farm

HECO abandons its first choice
and turns to a site in Kahuku

Hawaiian Electric Co. won't erect up to 26 electricity-generating wind turbines on the ridges behind its Kahe Power Plant after Mayor Mufi Hannemann objected to the $70 million project.

"Wind farms above Kahe Power Plant ... is just not appropriate and my administration will not support the siting of a wind farm here," the mayor said.

Hannemann said that if HECO continued with the project, the utility company would have had a zero chance of getting city permits.

"I would fight it tooth and nail," Hannemann said.

But HECO says it is exploring the mayor's suggestion that its wind farm project be relocated to Kahuku, the former site of a wind farm for about a decade beginning in the mid-1980s that was operated during much of that time by Hawaiian Electric's renewable energy arm.

"If the man says, 'No way,'" said Robbie Alm, senior vice president of public affairs, "I think it's time to move on."

HECO wanted the 300-foot-tall wind turbines to generate 39 megawatts of power on Campbell Industrial lands near Camp Timberline.

Hannemann said the project would need two city approvals: a conditional use permit for utilities installation and a public infrastructure map amendment for an energy-generation facility.

Hannemann said he's not opposed to wind farming, but he's opposed to the site.

City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz, whose district includes Kahuku, said that it's too soon to know the reaction of the North Shore community until HECO sits down with its residents.

"People want to how many, how big, what would be the community benefits? How does this project impact the overall county?" Dela Cruz said.

"What makes this area important is the fact of its unique history," said Shad Kane, representing the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs. "Because cultural concerns and cultural issues are important to the health of the Hawaiian community, it's even more important that we preserve the uniqueness of places such as this."

Kane said a community of 2,000 Hawaiians lived in ancient times and among the important features included heiau, a stone school house, stone platform or ahu for religious worship and other structures.

But he and others said that while the wind farm would not have directly affected these sites, the cultural impact would still have been significant. He said the connection between the mountains and the sea is important to Hawaiian culture.

Hannemann said the biggest obstacle to HECO developing a wind farm in Kahuku is that the military, which has a training reservation in the area, now owns the site of the old farm.

Alm and Hannemann said HECO has already begun discussions with the military, and the mayor said he would talk with Hawaii's congressional delegation to try to make it happen.

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