Power struggle grows over putting solar panels on Ford Island

Power struggle grows over putting solar panels on Ford Island

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Pearl Harbor's commanding officer of naval facilities engineering is under orders to slash energy consumption in half by 2020, and use renewable resources to cover the rest.

"Every dollar I save in energy -- either conservation or renewable energy resources -- is a dollar I can spend in maintaining the infrastructure, helping to train our troops going forward to do our nation's business," Capt. Mike Williamson said.

The Navy wants to set up tens of thousands of solar panels on the grassy runway on Ford Island. They would sit eighteen inches off the ground and be surrounded by a barrier.

Ken DeHoff, executive director of the Pacific Aviation Museum, argues a photovoltaic field will desecrate the historic site, where bullet holes on the old airstrip and in hangar windows remind visitors of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.

"Putting a photovoltaic panel array or farm here on Ford Island is like putting a water park in Gettysburg," he said.

The Navy said the solar panels could produce enough electricity to power Ford Island and some of the naval base. Panels would be removable and wouldn't damage the runway.

Williamson said the former takeoff and landing site doesn't serve a functional purpose.

"If you were to go out there and weren't aware of what happened on Dec. 7, 1941, you wouldn't know that the runway actually existed there today," he said.

DeHoff supports the armed forces need to reduce its carbon footprint, but insists Ford Island isn't the place for a photovoltaic field.

"We have designated the property as historic," he said. "We'd like to keep it looking as close to that as possible."

Williamson said the Navy is looking at two other sites besides the runway. It hopes to name a location by the end of the year.

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