Wind farm controversy

By Sean Reilly,

North Shore residents on O‘ahu in Hawai‘i have conflicting views on a recent wind farm development. The Kawailoa wind farm is currently under construction in the Kamehameha Schools Kawailoa Plantation lands. The new wind farm is already the largest in the state, and upon its completion in November will contain 30 wind turbine generators. The turbine generators stretch across the hills of the North Shore and can be seen from parts of Haleiwa, Wailua, and Waimea Valley.

First Wind, a Boston-based company, will be heading the development. According to their web page, the wind farm will power approximately 14,500 O’ahu homes, and could supply as much as 5 to 10 percent of the islands electrical load. This would save the burning of 300,000 barrels of oil annually.

First Wind officials and local officials share their excitement during a ceremony on the project site.

“This groundbreaking for Kawailoa Wind is an historic occasion for Hawaii because, as the largest wind project ever in the state, it will harness enough clean, sustainable energy to provide power for thousands of families on O’ahu,” said Sen. Daniel Akaka. “Renewable electricity production makes our islands more energy self-sufficient, environmentally sustainable, and secure,” he said, “which is critically important now and for future generations.”

Imposing on Sacred Lands

But for community member and Kamehameha Schools alumnus Kahokule‘a Haiku, the development is seen as a slap in the face. Haiku believes the 30 turbines are not only an eyesore to North shore residents and visitors, but also a threat to sacred lands.

“I’m not opposed to renewable energy, in fact I definitely support it,” Haiku said. “For me, first and foremost being a native Hawaiian my biggest issue is the location.”

Waimea Valley

          Several turbines from the Kawailoa wind farm tower over the sacred Waimea Valley. Waimea, “Valley of the Priests,” has been a sacred place for over 700 years in Native Hawaiian History. The valley is a cultural treasure and was the site for many significant events.

Waimea Valley has two of the most prominent heiaus, or temples, on O’ahu: Puu o Mahuka, O’ahu’s largest heiau, located on a ridge overlooking the valley; and Kupopolo, positioned near the beach on the southwest side of the river.

Numerous cultural features can be found throughout the valley as well. Fishing shrines line the coastal edge of the valleys entrance and many burial caves are embedded within the valley walls.

“Waimea Valley is a cultural resource of the highest possible order… There is no place quite like Waimea Valley on the island of O’ahu, and very few places in the entire archipelago can equal it in terms of its religious associations, its preservation, or its potential for answering any questions about traditional Hawaii. It is deserving of the utmost care and protection, and this can be achieved only through recognition and careful planning,” said principle investigator of Archaeological Consultants of the Pacific Joseph Kennedy in a historical assessment study for the National Audubon Society.

Community Input

First Wind claims to be well aware of the historical and cultural significance of Waimea Valley. In an attempt to reach out and gather community input, First Wind conducted a cultural impact assessment to identify potential impacts on culturally significant locations and held advertised public meetings.

Hawaiian organizations, agencies and community members were consulted in the assessment; including the State Historic Preservation Division, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai’i Nei, the Waialua Hawaiian Civic Club, and the community members of Kawailoa and Kamananui Ahupua ’a.

However, many community members continue to protest the development.

“Either a place is sacred or it’s not,” said Haiku. “ Places like Yosemite or Mt. Fuji, companies would not even suggest putting them (wind turbines) in those areas, and the major reason is because these places are considered national treasures, and Waimea Valley should be no different.”

While some residents remain skeptical about the new wind farm, Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle shared his optimism at the Kawailoa Wind ceremony.

“Clean energy projects are a priority for the City and County of Honolulu because they are a priority for our future,” Said Carlisle. “Projects like this will benefit and position our city for the future.”

Kamehameha Schools’ North Shore Plan

The Kawailoa wind farm is only one component of a much larger project in the Kamehameha Schools North Shore Plan. The plan includes the establishment of alternative energy uses, enhanced agriculture and food production, improvements to the 100-year-old agricultural water system, and much more.

The recent drive for wind farms and other forms of sustainable energy have stemmed from a Hawaiian Law mandating that by the year 2030, 70 percent of the state’s energy needs come from renewable energy, with 40 percent produced locally.