HONOLULU – This week, Senator Gil Riviere introduced the POWER Bill Package – People Overwhelmed by Wind Energy Ramifications.
The gigantic wind turbines being built in Kahuku by Na Pua Makani surround the small rural community with industrial machinery towering as high as 57 stories and as close as 1650 feet from homes and schools. "The rally cry, 'Too big, too close' is no exaggeration," says the Senator.
The residents of Kahuku have lived within ¾ of a mile of 420' turbines since Kahuku Wind began operations in 2011. During the first year, that project experienced three fires from its battery system; the final, catastrophic fire spewed toxic gases for days and knocked the system off the grid for more than a year.
Kahuku residents are concerned about health and safety risks associated with living so close to these new, massive turbines. They are concerned about tower collapse and blade throw that has occurred at other projects, including Auwahi Wind on Maui. They are concerned about health risks and annoyance from infrasound, low frequency sound, incessant whoosh and grinding noises of the turbines, stray voltage, nighttime flashing lights, and shadow flicker.
The POWER Bill Package includes measures targeting the need for health studies and discounted electricity rates for residents burdened by living near the turbines, reasonable setbacks, and a siting process for renewable energy. The siting process will be critical to help prevent similar crises from happening again.
"I also introduced a measure calling on Governor Ige to begin negotiations with Na Pua Makani to terminate this poorly located project. Something this big and this close to residents should never have been approved.
"This divisive project threatens the health and well-being of the people of Kahuku and could harm the implementation of future renewable energy projects the State is relying on to meet its clean energy initiative. The Governor is in the best position to help reverse this terrible mistake."
The Na Pua Makani turbines are a third taller and more than twice as close to residents as the original project, Kahuku Wind. Together, these two industrial wind projects will surround the residents, whose objections to the project have been ignored for years.
Senator Riviere introduced the POWER Bill package to offer these solutions:
SB 2801 - requires the Public Utilities Commission to establish preferential electricity rates for residential properties located within a five-mile radius of a utility scale wind energy facility.
SB 2802 - requires all wind turbines that are equipped with obstruction lighting and located within five miles of a residential community to be equipped with aircraft detection lighting systems and turn off lights when there are no aircrafts in the area to reduce light pollution.
SB 2803 - requires all utility scale wind energy facilities operating within two miles of a residential area to provide a longitudinal monitoring study of residents living within two miles of the facility.
SB 2804 - requires each county to adopt ordinances that require wind turbines and other wind-powered energy systems to be setback at least fifteen feet for each foot of height.
SB 3048 - Prohibits utility-scale energy projects from being constructed or located within half a mile from the boundary of any residential area.
SB 2805 - requires the Office of Planning to prepare a comprehensive renewable energy siting plan.
SB 3051 - authorizes the Governor, or the Governor's designee, to terminate the Na Pua Makani wind energy project.
The measures in the POWER Bill Package have not yet been scheduled for public hearing.
Links to the bills and related documents are online at www.capitol.hawaii.gov.
Senator Riviere can be reached at 586-7330 or SenRiviere@capitol.hawaii.gov.