As plans to build wind farms on the mountains at Kahuku continue, locals and students from the area say this is affecting the community and is similar to the opposition of the Thirty Meter Telescope being built on Mauna Kea.
Wind farms in Kahuku
Toa Sailusi, a special instructor in the Political Science Department, said, “The industrial wind turbines pose a lot of problems and impact the community in many ways, including the environment, health, social and economic well-being of our community.
“The wind farms require a lot of land area to produce energy because they are only producing energy when there is wind. There are environmental impacts including noise production, visual impacts and also death of birds and bats.
“People who live and work close to wind turbines have decreased their quality of life from the following health problems such as annoyance, stress, sleep disturbance, headache, anxiety, depression and cognitive dysfunction.”
According to Hawaii News Now, AES Hawaii (the company managing the project) plans to build a wind farm in Kahuku which includes eight turbines standing 568 feet high. The company plans to have the farm operational by May 2020. The facility is said to have a capacity of nearly 28 megawatts, enough to power up to 7,000 homes for a year.
Sharing her feelings about the wind farm project, Kahuku resident and BYU–Hawaii alumna (2017) Celina Hontanosas said, “The majority of people that are voting for them are not from this community. It’s a really big issue because it’s going to negatively affect our immediate community.
“The wind farm is going to benefit more people from outside our community rather than [a community where] it’s being placed.”
President of the Kahuku Community Association Tevita Kaili said, “We felt that we already have enough turbines and that we needed to fight and to say we don’t need any more wind turbines.”
Several groups from the community have rallied together in opposition of the wind turbines. The community group Keep the North Shore Country has had money donated from various community fundraisers for legal fees in opposition to the wind farm. Other community groups such as Defend Kahuku, and Life of the Land have also been legally challenging the wind farm project.
As someone who has been involved in bringing awareness to the issue, Hontanosas shared, “The [Kahuku] community is being proactive in bringing attention and awareness to the issue. We’ve done a lot of sign waving and appeals to the court and are waiting for those appeals to be processed.”
According to Sailusi, protests have formed into gathering and educating others about the environmental, social and economic and health challenges other communities have already faced as a result of industrial wind turbines.
He added, “In recent days, members of Kahuku and Laie communities who felt the project is not necessary are on the move to speak with our government representatives on how they can help them relocate, remove or stop this project.”
Defending Hawaiian land
Comparing the wind farm issue to Mauna Kea, Sailusi said the wind turbine issue is a little different because the telescope is in a place where there are no residents, whereas the proposed building in Kahuku is close to residents and schools.
“The similarity of cases … is the lack of stakeholder or civil society in the decision-making process. I think developments such as these should involve everyone. These developments should be more transparent.”
Hontanosas described how Mauna Kea and the wind farm projects are related. “Some of my relatives, who are Hawaiian activists, explained to me how the Mauna is so significant. If we let this go, this could be the beginning of a lot of desecration and loss of rights of our homelands. Indigenous rights are being overlooked for supposed benefits of science.
“I encourage people to do their research on issues such as Mauna Kea and the wind farms before they support and take a side. Knowledge is power and I think the best thing you can do for yourself is to make yourself aware of issues and to not be afraid to stand up for them.”