Wind farm battles aren’t new. And our search for green energy means they’re not going away

Updated: Oct. 22, 2019 at 10:24 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As protests of a planned wind farm in Kahuku continue, opponents are also battling the project in the courts.

More than 100 people have been arrested so far at wind farm blockades.

The opposition might have appeared to come out of nowhere. But in fact, wind farm projects are no stranger to controversy.

In 2008, then-Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann put a stop to a proposed wind farm near Kahe Power plant — mostly because of nearby heiau.

"I do believe wind energy is a natural for Hawaii, but not here. Not here in West Oahu," said Hannemann.

Blue Planet Foundation, meanwhile, gave Hawaii a "C" when it comes its 100% clean energy progress.

It says Hawaii is way off target from its goals, but has taken no position on the wind farm controversy.

Melissa Miyashiro, managing director of the Blue Planet Foundation, said the opposition to the Kahuku wind farm highlights in the tension in the community.

“There’s an urgency around climate change and we need to accelerate our transition off of fossil fuel, but then that tension of finding the right projects that are right for the communities,” she said.

Attorney Lance Collins is battling the North Shore wind farm and regulatory agencies through the courts. He says the arrests are a symptom of “a failure of government.”

Collins says the community isn’t against green energy, but has concerns about potential health effects and harm to native species have been ignored.

“The need to have renewables is basically outweighing all these other factors that the law requires all these other agencies to consider when they give their approvals," he said.

But supporters of the project say the opposition has been heard.

“Their concerns have been listened to, not as much as they’d like. That’s not surprising, but it’s not as if they’ve been ignored,” said Peter Rosegg, HECO spokesman.

‘Not in my backyard’ isn’t good enough, he added.

HECO has a contract to buy power from the Na Pua Makani wind farm project, which a spokesman says has worked with the community to reduce the number of turbines to eight and create wider setbacks from the community.

HECO says it’s working with 30 renewable energy projects this year to battle climate change, end dependence on fossil fuels and meet the state’s renewable energy goal of 100 percent by 2045.

“At the end of the day, if they’ve done everything that they can to meet those concerns and obey the rules and regulations of the permits, we need those projects if we are going to get to 100% renewable energy,” said Rosegg.

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