Floating turbines proposed

LIHUE — Floating wind turbines have been proposed for the 72-mile wide Ka’ie’iewaho Channel, which separates Kauai and Oahu and the environmental conservation group Life of the Land is calling for meetings on both islands to bring the public up to speed.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has received unsolicited bids from two companies to build off-shore floating turbines off of Oahu’s Ka’ena Point as well.

A.W. Hawaii Wind, a Texas company that’s a subsidiary of Alpha Wind Energy-based in Denmark, is proposing two wind farms off the coast of Oahu. One aimed at an area 12 miles off the northeast coast of Oahu’s Ka’ena Point and the other wind farm in the waters 17 miles south of Diamond Head. Each wind farm would generate about 400 megawatts of energy with 50 turbines.

The second company, Progression Hawaii Offshore Wind, has written up a proposal for the waters off of Oahu’s South Shore. It’s a $1.8 billion project that would end in between 40 or 50 floating turbines.

All of the proposed floating wind farms would be in water that’s around a half-mile deep and the concept is to use turbines that rise about 600 feet from the surface of the water, attached to triangular floating platforms. The floats would be anchored to the ocean floor and underwater cables would transfer the energy to plants on Oahu.

In a letter to BOEM, Henry Curtis, executive director of Life of the Land, said “people who fish, boat or canoe through, or have spiritual connection to the area may be based out of either island,” and that public information meetings are in order in Kauai and on Oahu.

On Kauai, members of the island’s chapter of Surfrider agree.

“I think there should be a public meeting on Kauai even though they (floating turbines) will be nowhere near our coastline and we will not get any of the energy,” said Carl Berg, of Surfrider Kauai. “They definitely need an EA (environmental assessment) to address the detrimental affects to birds and sea life.”

Though significant research and conversations are needed, Berg said there is a need to replace fossil fuels with other energy sources.

“We should be looking at everything to reduce greenhouse gases,” Berg said.

According to BOEM, the next step after receiving unsolicited lease requests for the floating turbines is to complete an environmental analysis and active stakeholder engagement.

In late June, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell issued a call for information and nominations go gauge the wind industry’s interest in commercial wind leases in the two areas offshore of Oahu.

It’s another step toward the state’s goal of reaching 100 percent clean energy generation by 2045.

The call also solicits public comment on the proposed sites from the public.

“Hawaii has important offshore wind energy potential, and we will continue our work with stakeholders across the spectrum to create a path forward for sustainable offshore energy development in the right places with the lowest conflicts across the Aloha State,” Jewell said.

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, in the Pacific BOEM is processing the three commercial floating wind lease requests offshore Hawaii, as well as one offshore of California. There is also one lease request for an area offshore Oregon.

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