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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Windmill proposal raises concerns

By Brian McInnis
Advertiser Staff Writer


KO OLINA — Leeward residents voiced concerns last night in a public meeting on Hawaiian Electric Co.'s proposal to place two dozen power-generating windmills on land above the Kahe power plant in Nanakuli.

About 50 people attended the meeting at the J.W. Marriott Ihilani Resort. HECO held the meeting to assess the public's reaction to its proposal to place 24 to 26 windmills as an alternative-energy source.

HECO estimates that the turbines, spread along 100 to 150 acres, could generate enough electricity for 15,000 homes, or about 1.6 percent of the total electricity generated on O'ahu.

A primary concern last night was the windmills' potential to be an eyesore: With the expansion of the Waimanalo Gulch landfill and power plants in the area, is West O'ahu bearing more than its share of unsightly projects?

"I don't think anyone would argue that (the project is not) unsightly," said Paul Chicoine, a 38-year-old sales director from Ko Olina, after he studied various diagrams of the proposed windmills. He also said he thought that the turbines might detract from possible tourism expansion in the area and that therefore the potential for more local jobs would be lost.

Robbie Alm, HECO vice president of public affairs, said: "The neighbors' views carry a significant amount of weight. We're at a stage of determining whether this is something we want to go forward with. We need to take the opposition into account, whatever we do."

Nettie Tiffany, 64, who has lived in the Ko Olina area since her youth, said she was torn between the idea of reducing the demand for imported oil — HECO claims the wind farm will save about 197,000 barrels of oil a year that would otherwise be used to generate electricity — and having construction on the mountain.

Alm said cultural experts would be consulted to avoid sensitive areas. For example, a silhouette of the Hawaiian demigod Maui is said to be on the Leeward mountainside in the area.

Bob Loy, spokesman for The Outdoor Circle environmental protection program, said he was trying to keep an open mind. Loy wondered if the need for alternative power trumped the need to protect the scenic landscape.

Another concern was the sound the turbines might make. Alm said that in Nanakuli and Ko Olina, the areas closest to the windmills, people would have to strain to hear the whooshing of the three 115-foot blades on each turbine, and that the most of the sound would be drowned out.

Spokesman Peter Rosegg said HECO has tested on O'ahu for a year to determine the best possible sites for construction and that the wind remained the most constant at Ka'ena Point, Kahuku and Nanakuli. Since Ka'ena is protected by the state, and the Kahuku mountain area is owned by the Army, Rosegg said, Nanakuli represented the only viable option.

Two other public meetings held by HECO are scheduled for today and tomorrow.

Today's meeting is at the Kapolei High School cafeteria from 7 to 9 p.m.; tomorrow's is at the Nanaikapono Elementary School cafeteria, in Nanakuli, from 7 to 9 p.m.