NEIGHBORHOODSEnergy project an
ill wind, some say
A Maui wind farm would beBy Gary T. Kubota
unsightly, noisy and a danger to
birds, officials warn
WAILUKU -- A proposal for a wind farm on the southern ridge of the West Maui Mountains could reduce air pollution and Hawaii's reliance on oil imports.
But Zond Pacific Inc.'s 27 wind turbines, including 14 red beacons at night, will have a visual and noise impact on visitors who hike along the Lahaina Pali trail, state officials say.
Officials say they also are evaluating Zond's proposal to lessen any potential harm to seabirds and Hawaii's endangered nene goose.
Zond Pacific, a subsidiary of Enron Wind Corp. of California, plans to generate up to 20 megawatts of power on state conservation land at Kaheawa.
The company needs a conservation district use permit from the state land board before proceeding with the project.
In its draft environmental impact statement, Zond has proposed donating $3,500 a year to the state's nene recovery project.
Keith Avery, Zond's vice president, said the company also will develop a procedure for monitoring and recovering any birds injured by turbine blades.
Avery said a radar study conducted by a consultant indicates birds travel infrequently through the site.
He said the wind turbines, each 250 to 260 feet high, will be visible only at a considerable distance, about eight miles away from Kihei and farther from Kula.
The environmental study said each wind turbine proposed for the project would generate 102 decibels and there will be no noise impact because of the remote location.
Avery said the project's cost will total from $20 million to $37 million, including equipment and labor.
While state conservation and economic development officials say they're not in conflict with each other, they are representing a different view of the project.
State wildlife biologist John Medeiros said he and other scientists are still reviewing the potential impact of the turbines on a nene recovery project about a half-mile from the site.
Michael Baker, a state trails official on Maui, said the proposed location will be within viewing and hearing distance of hikers along the historic Lahaina Pali trail.
"We already have some power lines going through the area which impact the views mauka, and now we have the wind machines coming along the ridge above the trail," Baker said.
"I'm not convinced they couldn't find a different or similar location somewhere else."
But Maurice Kaya, a state economic development official, said while the project has some environmental impacts, it has to be weighed with its economic as well as environmental advantages.
Kaya said wind energy is clean and halts the flow of oil dollars outside the state. Every dollar kept in Hawaii generates $3 to $3.50 in economic activity, he said.
"This will be a good project," Kaya said. "We just have to overcome some obstacles."
According to the firm, the wind turbines will reduce the importation of 102,000 barrels of oil a year for electrical energy.
Avery said the firm plans to seek a land board permit, but is waiting for Congress to pass a five-year production tax credit for wind energy.
The measure, HR Bill 750, is currently in the House Ways and Means Committee, according to the office of U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, one of the bill's sponsors.