The State Procurement Office this week turned down a request by the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism to extend a public relations contract in order to tackle negative public opinion towards the Big Wind project on Molokai and Lanai.
In comments filed on Thursday, the Chief Procurement Officer said “it would be inappropriate to increase the contract amount by 40% with six months remaining on the contract….It would be inappropriate and unfair to the other participating offer ors if an additional $195,000 is added conflicting with the solicitation’s requirement of proposals submitted were not to exceed $500,000.”
So that effort is apparently off the table, for the time being at least.
Meanwhile, a reader using the name “skeptical once again” left a comment here last week questioning the opposition to the Big Wind project among Molokai residents. Here’s an excerpt:
Here’s a quote from a Molokai islander:
“It’s a stand against greed!” Espaniola yells to the crowd. “It’s a stand against injustice! It’s a stand against things we don’t stand for!”
Unfortunately, from such reactions, I am not sure just what the logical relevant arguments are against the Big Wind. It’s all so vague and emotional.
Their reactions seem deeply felt. But the most rational arguments boil down to “It will negatively impact our lifestyle.”
There are good argument that relate to this. Why should Molokai sacrifice its cultural existence for the lifestyle of Oahu when Oahu should be sacrificing for energy independence at least as much as Molokai would?
(This is complicated because the standard reaction to negative externalities imposed on third parties is to compensate them financially. But Molokai residents claim that they don’t really value a monetary economy, they claim to value a subsistence economy, which seems to make up for one third of their economy.)
There are also issues of local democracy.
Now, there are very strong arguments against the Big Wind which one can find in the “Disappeared News” blog. These are regarding issues such as energy loss in the cable and the potential early obsolescence of the system with emerging technology, and how geothermal and OTEC, for instance, are much more reliable than intermittent sources of energy like wind.
But the general tone of the arguments coming out of Molokai do not seem to have been vetted through a team of attorneys or professors or journalists. The arguments seem incoherent.
Where to start?
How about those last two sentences. Is that a joke? Public comments need to be filtered through “a team of attorneys or professors or journalists” to be heard? And, if that’s so, who is responsible for the translation? Individual community speakers? The public officials soliciting the comments? Concerned onlookers?
In any case, the group calling itself, “I Aloha Molokai” presents lots of critical information about the project and the Molokai community’s reaction, both “hard” printed materials and “soft” video communications.
This list of pretty concrete environmental impacts is from their fact sheet prepared in July concerning the industrial nature of the wind turbine and cable project:
The $3 billion project would be the largest single energy project in Hawai’i history and would have many permanent irreversible impacts on Moloka’i:
1. 90 turbine towers 42 stories high, taller than almost any building in Honolulu.
2. Each turbine tower has 3 blades, each larger than a Boeing 747 wing.
3. Each turbine tower has a concrete base 60 feet in diameter and 10-20 feet deep.
4. Large switching stations and an extensive road and transmission line network.
5. Our roads will be widened and straightened to truck the towers, turbines & blades.
6. Kaunakakai Harbor will be deepened or a deepwater port built at Hale o Lono.
7. No studies have been done to determine even if Moloka’i winds are sufficient.
8. Many of the proposed “community benefits” are already the legal responsibility of
Moloka’i Ranch, and thus offer no additional value to the community.
Negative impacts on Moloka’i:
1. A 10-25% reduction of West Moloka’i property values and rental incomes.
2. A 30% increase in our electricity bills.
3. Destruction of many archeological and sacred sites.
4. Its 300 short-term workers will nearly all be employed from off-island. Only 5 to 10
workers will be employed from Moloka’i.
5. The 300 short-term workers will swamp our police, fire, schools, & other services.
6. It will destroy one of the most beautiful coastal areas in the U.S.
7. It will stop hunting in most of West Moloka’i.
8. Its construction impacts (dust, blasting, traffic jams etc.) will be huge for years.
9. Its turbines are very loud, and can be heard for up to 5 miles.
10. It is in the major approach to Moloka’i Airport.
11. Its hundreds of strobe lights will be visible for miles and blot out the night sky.
12. Its health impacts on nearby residents may include cardiovascular and cancer risk.
13. It will kill many of our birds. Some wind factories kill over 200 birds a day.
14. It will kill our Moloka’i bats (the wind force explodes their lungs).
15. The cable will go through our Southern Moloka’i Reef, the largest in the U.S.
16. It will impact our endangered Hawai’ian monk seals, whales, dolphins and turtles.
17. After 20 years it will shut down with the towers standing and the 60-ton bases in the
ground. The developers have offered to fund a decommissioning bond but such bonds rarely provide the necessary funds. For example, areas of the Big Island are filled with rusting wind turbine towers visible for miles.
18. If the towers and bases are removed, it will also be a huge destructive project.
I’m struck by that nasty question–what happens to “decommissioned” turbines?
I Aloha Molokai looked to the Big Island for the answer and found it. Need I say the video is beautiful as well?
I’m also interested that Doug Carlson’s Hawaii Energy Options Blog seems to have a definite tilt against Big Wind and supporting the people of Molokai. Doug usually leans towards the side that contracts for his services, but perhaps that’s not the case in this instance?