Company proposes floating wind farms off Oahu

Agency proposes floating wind farms off Oahu

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A federal agency is reviewing two lease requests from AW Hawaii Wind for renewable energy ventures.

The Texas-based subsidiary of a Danish developer wants to build a couple of wind farms offshore of Oahu. One site would be 12 miles northwest of Kaena Point. The other location would be 17 miles south of Diamond Head. Each facility would include 51 floating 8 megawatt turbines secured by anchors. The electricity generated would be transmitted to Oahu by undersea cables.

The submittal of the requests to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is the earliest step in a process that includes analysis of potential environmental impacts and input from stakeholders. Agency officials said there are only about four offshore floating wind turbines in use around the world. The BOEM Hawaii Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force will meet on June 3 from 9 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. at the Homer Maxey International Trade Resource Center at Pier 2 to discuss the lease requests. The public question and answer session begins 5 minutes after the meeting adjourns.

AW Hawaii Wind has consulted with the environmental group Life of the Land. The organization is waiting for additional details on issues such as the visibility of the turbines before taking a position.

"We wanted to know the reliability, the cost per kilowatt hour, their involvement and willingness to meet with the community and alleviate community concerns," said Henry Curtis, executive director of Life of the Land.

"Some of the concerns are - one of the proposals is south of Oahu. So is that going to have an impact on tourism in Waikiki? Will they be able to see it from Diamond Head?" said Doug Boren, BOEM Pacific renewable energy chief.

The project south of Oahu will be visible from Waikiki Beach, according to AW Hawaii Wind. After the task force meeting, the BOEM will determine if other companies are interested in the areas requested for lease. Under AW Hawaii Wind's project schedule, construction would start in 2018.

Also this week, the Department of Land and Natural Resources is holding a hearing about a new wind farm in Kahuku. The Na Pua Makani project includes up to 10 wind turbines. The plan faces some opposition.

"There's no real benefit for the average ratepayer here in Kahuku having these turbines here," said Kent Fonoimoana, president of the Kahuku Community Association. "It's going to wrap around the entire community on three sides. We've already got them on one side."

Mike Cutbirth, CEO of Na Pua Makani Wind Partners, LLC, released this statement: "The Na Pua Makani project will play an important role in the anticipated 20 percent reduction in electric bills Hawaiian Electric anticipates as it increases the percentage of renewable energy on the grid and reduces the consumption of imported oil. The utility told the Public Utilities Commission the Na Pua Makani wind project would save Oahu electricity consumers 'millions of dollars in avoided fuel costs.'"

The public hearing on a draft habitat conservation plan for the project will be held on June 4 at 6 p.m. at the Kahuku Village Association Community Center.

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