Agency seeks input on floating wind farms off Oahu

Published: May. 16, 2016 at 10:34 PM HST|Updated: May. 16, 2016 at 10:46 PM HST
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(Image: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management)
(Image: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A federal agency is reviewing three proposals from two companies who want to build floating wind farms in waters off Oahu.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which will decide whether to issue any leases for the project, held a meeting Monday to update stakeholders about the next steps in the lengthy process.

"We have a lot of questions about how this is going to operate. It's kind of an emerging technology," said Mark Glick, energy administrator for the Hawaii State Energy Office.

Two lease requests are from AW Hawaii Wind. One proposed site is 12 miles northwest of Kaena Point. The other area is 17 miles south of Diamond Head.

Another developer, Progression Hawaii Offshore Wind, wants to lease a site nine miles southeast of Barbers Point for a $1.5 billion project.

Each project proposes a facility with a capacity of approximately 400 megawatts of renewable energy generated by roughly 50 turbines, which will transmit power to Oahu through undersea cables.

"It would provide 20 to 25 percent of Oahu's energy at a fairly low and economic price, and it would make a significant leap forward for the state and for Oahu in driving oil out of our economy," said Ted Peck, outreach coordinator for Progression Energy.

There are concerns about the projects, though. They include whether the turbines will be visible from shore, as well as potential cultural and environmental impacts.

"You have all these cords that are going to be dangling down from floating platforms that are going to go through 1,000 feet of water," said Henry Curtis, executive director of Life of the Land. "Will whales snag them? Will submarines hit them? How will fishing be impacted?"

The state has set a goal for its utilities to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, so these projects are seen as part of reaching that goal.

The BOEM will start the competitive planning and leasing process this summer. The agency will collect public comments about the potential impacts. An Environmental Assessment will also be done.

"We want this to be an incredibly transparent and informed process and so the burden is on us to make sure that happens. That's why we're out there talking to whomever is willing to listen to us," explained BOEM director Abigail Ross Hopper.

If any leases are granted, it will likely take several years before a floating wind farm is producing power.

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