Homesteaders Say No to Wind Power
By Catherine Cluett
From signs around the island to a presentation at a Department of Hawaiian Home Lands meeting two weeks ago, those who stand against wind power on Molokai are making their voices heard.
“[Windmills on Homestead land] really changes Prince Kohio’s vision of the Hawaiian Homestead Act,” said homesteader Adolph Helm during the presentation of a group called Aloha Aina Mo`omomi Anahaki (AAMA), representing all those against wind turbines on the island.
Wind energy company First Wind has been in dialogue with Molokai residents since 2006, when the company, then known as UPC Wind, proposed a 350 megawatt (MW) wind farm for the island. The project’s goal is to supply renewable energy to Oahu through an undersea cable that would connect the islands.
Three years later, in part because of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI), which sets a statewide goal of 70 percent clean energy by 2030, Molokai has been set up to play a large role in fulfilling that promise.
First Wind’s two phased proposal for Molokai is called Ikaika Wind Power. The first phase calls for 20 turbines to be built on Department of Hawaiian Homelands lands in Ho`olehua. The second phase is planned to be built on Molokai Ranch lands. However, First Wind currently has no agreement with Molokai Ranch.
Each turbine would sit on a 45 foot concrete foundation, and measure 400 feet tall, or about 40 stories, according to Noe Kalipi, Director of Government & Community Relations for First Wind. Each turbine would generate 2.5 MW of power, totaling about 50 MW in the first planned phase. To give a reference point, Molokai’s entire energy grid requires about 5 MW.
Homesteaders Speak Out
An outspoken group of Molokai residents, spearheaded by Hawaiian homesteaders, believe the wind project would be a detriment to the environmental, cultural and spiritual health of the proposed area, near Mo`omomi on Molokai’s north shore.
“Hawaiians have been living along this coast for at least the past 500 years,” said Molokai resident Walter Mendes.
The area has been used for generations for subsistence fishing, and is home to many native and endangered plant, bird and animal species, including the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, according to homesteader Kanoho Helm.
Mendes also pointed out that the area is rich in archeological artifacts – ancient house sites, middens and heiau.
Homesteaders say they are concerned that the creation of infrastructure would cause fragmentation of the ecosystem as well as limited access and restricted gathering rights to the area.
In addition, Helm argued the wind farm would not be consistent with the DHHL’s policies.
“DHHL referenced this place as a preserve,” he said. “It should remain a place for the Hawaiians to malama … and to live and to raise their families.” He added that the place would carry “the burden of Oahu’s development on Molokai homesteaders.”
Molokai residents also voiced concerns about the proposed undersea cable that would connect the neighbor islands.
“I don’t want my son going in the ocean with these high-transmission cables,” said Kanoho Helm.
In addition to possible health and safety hazards, residents also said the cables would damage the delicate ecosystem and fishing grounds of Mo`omomi.
“[It would be] the highest manmade structure on Molokai,” said Adolph Helm. “That’s spiritually intrusive… It’s a sacred area.”
However, State and Hawaiian Electric Company officials have yet to commit to bringing the proposed cable to Molokai, and have not announced landing locations where the cable might come to shore.
Homesteader Camie Purdy spoke in favor of wind power on Molokai.
“From 2007 till now, we had eight community meetings in regards to the wind farm,” she said. “I wish all of you attended those meetings…. If all of you showed up and shared mana`o, maybe it wouldn’t have come to this,” she added, looking out over the crowded room.
Tensions rose as residents voiced their descent.
Noe Kalipi of First Wind said the company has been as candid and transparent as possible during the planning and discussion process begun three years ago. She said they are still completing all the required studies, and are yet unsure as to the location of the proposed wind turbines.
“When I go down there, I don’t want to look at windmills,” said Mac Poepoe, caretaker of the Mo`omomi area for 16 years.
Adolph Helm read a list of requests the group planned to make with the Hawaiian Homes Commission. They were to revoke entry for Ikaika Wind Farm for testing for possible wind farm and construction of wind power at Mo`omomi and Anahaki; to revote preliminary approval of a license agreement to Ikaika Wind Farm to develop a commercial wind farm project in Mo`omomi and Anahaki; to adopt a policy to prevent industrial scale windmills at Mo`omomi and Anahaki; and to adopt a policy to ban inter-island electrical cable along Mo`omomi and Anahaki.
“We have to do archeology studies and incorporate the mana`o of everyone who has the mo`olelo of the area so we know where not to put turbines,” said Kalipi.“We will not build on endangered plants, we will not build on archeological sites, we will not build on burial grounds.”
Kalipi said First Wind would like to continue the studies and when they are completed, come back to the community with all available information.
“We want the opportunity for you to make an informed decision,” she said. “We will be with you in advocating to the state of Hawaii that an undersea cable should not go to Mo`omomi.”
She added that there is a long way to go before the project can go through, and promised the company will personally visit all the homesteaders present at the meeting, as well as the rest of the island before the project goes through. She also said Ikaika would not be completed without the community’s support and approval.
Temporary meteorological (MET) towers have already been installed in Ho`olehua, near Mo`omomi, to measure wind velocity and weather conditions. First Wind is also in the process of conducting avian, archeological and environmental studies.
At 78 percent, Hawaii currently has the highest energy dependence on oil of any other state in the U.S. The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative calls for 400 MW of energy to Oahu’s grid to come from either Lanai or Molokai, and Castle & Cooke on Lanai and First Wind on Molokai had been competing in a bid process to supply the needed energy. But on March 17, 2009, the “Big Wind” agreement was signed by Hawaiian Electric Company, Castle & Cooke and First Wind that allowed both Molokai and Lanai to each supply up to 200 MW of energy.
Adolph Helm said a petition against the proposed wind farm has been circulating. It already has over 500 signatures, the majority of whom are homesteaders, and the number is growing.
“No need to do the studies [for wind feasibility on Molokai],” he said. “We’ve had enough already.”