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A Lanai Wind Farm

Community Contributed by Robin Kaye, Friends of Lanai

Steve Morgan’s third article on the proposed Oahu wind power plant built on Lanai has unfortunately morphed into a Castle and Cooke press release. Let me set the record straight regarding the process on Lanai.
 
How much land will the Lanai wind power plant consume? [Note: it is not a “farm;” nothing will grow out of these turbines, and after 20 years, they die and are typically abandoned onsite.]
According to the only official Castle and Cooke (C&C) document on this project (the Environmental Impact Statement/Preliminary Notice published in late 2008), the industrial power plant will consume up to 22,000 acres – one quarter of Lanai: http://oeqc.doh.hawaii.gov/Shared%20Documents/EA_and_EIS_Online_Library/Lanai/2000s/2008-10-08-LA-FEA-EISPN-Lanai-Wind-Farm.pdf
 
What benefits are being offered to the people of Lanai?
Two of the major components (and largest sums of money) in this C&C package – “watershed preservation” and “water infrastructure improvements” (fixing the pipes) – are not considered by many who live here as “community benefits.” They are obligations of the land owners, and should have been for the past 25 years. In 2008, the water system on Lanai lost 28 percent of the water produced through leaks (industry standard are 10-12 percent). Only now that they foresee enormous profits are they offering to do what they should have been doing for 25 years, and positioning this as a “community benefit.”  This has outraged many Lanai residents.
 
Lower electric rates?
Only the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) can set the electric rates. Given the additional costs of infrastructure improvements on Oahu required to accept this intermittent power source, Oahu’s electric rates may rise to our level.  The fact is, at this point no one knows, so this is an empty promise.
 
Response of the Lanai community?
Many on Lanai strongly oppose this project. “No Windmills” signs have proliferated, groups have organized to better educate the community, and community sign waving have further focused the members of the community.  Clearly the community is divided: some, mostly small business owners who lease their properties from C&C, hope that the project will generate a serious set of benefits.  Some, like the union officials, are erroneously informing their workers that this project will provide jobs (even HECO has publicly disputed this).  Others believe C&C’s argument that, despite long-standing evidence to the contrary, “what is good for C&C is good for Lanai” and that if we do not accept this degradation to our island, Lanai will become  “just like Molokai.” Many Lanaians take this as a compliment, rather than the fear tactic C&C wishes it to be. Still others, like Friends of Lanai, believe that there are no benefits to justify this permanent, irrevocable destruction of one quarter of this beautiful, historic land.
 
Is there a Lanai governing body involved in the decision process?
The Lanai Planning Commission is the only local “governing” body that will need to review the required Shoreline Management Area (SMA) permit.  One C&C renewable energy management official informed a group of Lanaians that, in order to avoid the one Lanai governing body’s deliberations on this project, the company was actually exploring the option of tunneling under the beach and surfacing on land “outside” the SMA. So much for home rule.

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