Na Pua Makani Litigation (Ongoing): Summary of Battle to Save Kahuku, Hawaii from AES Corporation, Arlington, Virginia

Na Pua Makani, owned by AES Corporation from Arlington, Virginia, must not be allowed to operate at night because their endangered bat incidental take license is not lawful and because the turbines turbine noise would disrupt sleep in Kahuku town (34% Native Hawaiian) (Unlawful Nighttime Noise).  Nighttime shutdown of the turbines, to prevent the turbines from killing endangered bats, will prevent the too close turbines from making noise when Kahuku residents (34% Native Hawaiian) are trying to sleep.  The State of Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources (the same Board members who had just approved the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea), who are entrusted with managing State lands to benefit Native Hawaiian people, approved the Na Pua Makani Wind Farm on State land, even though they could have (as pointed out by Keep the North Shore country and Kahuku Community Association in their contested case hearings, as recommended by the State’s attorney) required the nighttime shutdown to protect the endangered bats and Native Hawaiians living turbine height distance from the turbines.  This is our Mauna Kea – We are Mauna Kea.  Kū Kia’i Kahuku – A’ole wind turbines.  The injustices of this Board of Land and Natural Resources against Native Hawaiians are startling.

Endangered BatsTo get a license to kill an endangered animal, endangered species law requires the project to offset take of the endangered species with mitigation to the “maximum extent practicable”.  This is relatively easy to do for most species – you can boost Hawaiian goose and Hawaiian seabird reproductive success from 5% to 80% by protecting nests from cat, mongoose, and rat predators.  Back in 2009-2012, when the incidental take licenses for the first five Hawaii wind farms were issued, it was totally reasonable for the DLNR to conclude the solitary tree-roosting bat population would increase if 20 acres of grazed grassland was restored to native forest.  Researchers thought bats preferred native forest and they thought the core area used by a bat was 20 acres.  But in 2016 monitoring at a wind farm mitigation site on Maui showed a reduction in bat feeding when ungulates are removed possibly because the dung beetle population declines. In addition, it turns out bats prefer foraging in non-native grasslands, low-density developed areas, and gulches; they fly over native forest areas to get to these other feeding sites; and the average male bat core area is 9,143 acres (3,700 ha), not 20 acres.

Kristen Jonasson HT Harvey

Johnston et al foraging ranges of bats on Maui IBRC 2019 p 317 of abstracts

 

 

Johnston et al Maui bats prefer grassland gulch developed IBRC 2019

Na Pua Makani’s HCP, that the DLNR approved to authorize the wind farm killing 51 bats, would “mitigate”/”offset” the kills by funding eight to 12 years of management of 1,300 acres (526 ha) at the Poamoho Ridge native forest area and $150,000 in “research” to monitor the bat population at Poamoho Ridge during that time. The problem is, the proposed mitigation will not help bats because  A.) removal of ungulates, grass, and other non-native plants at Poamoho Ridge would not be expected to help even one bat because bats feed preferentially in grassland and areas occupied by ungulates; B.) the “mitigation” site was already fenced by DLNR and the Watershed Partnership; and C.) the 1,300-acre mitigation site is the size of one seventh of one male bat’s core area, so how would 51 additional bats be produced by the small densely forested site to offset the wind farm’s bat take? The bat take license may have been approved because it will help the DLNR meet its own internal acres managed goals.

By law, Hawaii wind farms including Na Pua Makani must avoid bat take by shutting down at night, to the extent if it financially feasible, until an effective bat mitigation method is developed and the wind farm implements it to offset their bat take.  According to information provided by HECO, Na Pua Makani would gross more than $10 million/year while wind farm operations (which wouldn’t include the bat mitigation costs) cost approximately $2 million/year.  Nighttime shutdown would reduce gross income by approximately 45% ($6.5 million gross, minus $2 million operating cost = $4.5 million PROFIT).  Even with the nighttime shutdown (which brings the wind farm into conformance with State noise laws and endangered species laws), Na Pua Makani, because of their generous $0.15/kwh power purchase agreement, would roll in the $4.5 million per year profit (see: Opportunity Cost of Hawaii Wind Farms).  The two new Hawaii wind farms are both proposing $0.10/kwh power purchase agreements, even in light of the nighttime shutdown requirements.  Massive profits at the expense of endangered bats (and the Kahuku public trying to sleep at night) are unlawful.

Na Pua Makani is the first wind farm proposed since the new information about the ineffectiveness of bat mitigation became available.  After eleven years of industrial wind farm operations in Hawaii, there is no evidence a single bat has benefited from a wind farm mitigation project and it’s more likely mitigation is harming individual bats and bat populations.

To Avoid Killing Endangered Bats, Na Pua Makani Must Shut Down at Night: Na Pua Makani proposes to minimize bat take by implementing low wind speed curtailment when wind speeds are 5 meters/second or lower at night (stopping blade spinning when winds are lighter because bats are flying under light wind conditions).  However, new research indicates the relatively large, strong-flighted Hawaiian hoary bats are still flying around wind turbines at existing North Shore wind farms up to wind speeds of 12 m/s (Figure 1, adapted from Gorresen et al 2015, Figure 19, p. 25 https://dspace.lib.hawaii.edu/bitstream/10790/2585/1/TR64_Gorresen_Bats_Final.pdf).

Gorresen bat wind speed explanationsFigure 1.  The relatively large, strong-flighted Hawaiian hoary bats are detected flying around wind turbines at existing North Shore wind farms (blue curve) at average wind speeds up to 12 meters/second.  By implementing low wind speed curtailment of 6.5 m/s (red arrows) instead of the proposed 5 m/s, Champlin could reduce bat take by 50%.  Low wind speed curtailment at 8 m/s would almost eliminate bat take.  Graph adapted from Gorresen et al 2015, Figure 19: https://dspace.lib.hawaii.edu/bitstream/10790/2585/1/TR64_Gorresen_Bats_Final.pdf

Avoidance of Bat Take Would Require Low Wind Speed Curtailment at 12 m/s average wind speed:  Because Champlin’s proposed mitigation fails to offset take of even one bat (as explained below), the wind developer must be required avoid bat take, which would entail low wind speed curtailment when wind speed averages 12 m/s or lower.

See video of contested case hearing addressing unlawful endangered species aspects of the project:  http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/36083754/endangered-bat-at-center-of-fight-over-kahuku-wind-farm-proposal

Social Justice

Na Pua Makani SFEIS fails to disclose to Federal, State, and County permitting agencies how noisy the wind turbines will be, situated so close to residential areas.  Na Pua Makani’s EIS says there would be no high or adverse effects to any minority or low income population and, therefore, no environmental justice issues resulting from this Project.”  According to the Census Bureau, Kahuku has a total population of 2,614 people in 622 housing units (53% owner-occupied; 47% renting) that are 8.6% (224) white, 34% (888) Native Hawaiian; 26% (641) Filipino, and 31% (823) two or more races, 62% born in Hawai‘i, 23.5% born in foreign country.  Twenty five percent of the of population 25 years and older did not graduate from high school; 53% of Kahuku residents completed no more than 8th grade.

I estimate the Na Pua Makani Wind Farm, if allowed to operate at night, could reduce property values in Kahuku by a total of $40 million.  The giant wind turbines (now apparently 8 turbines, situated 2,000 feet from Kahuku town) would result in a significant loss of property value – certainly no less than 10% in Kahuku, and possibly greater than 25% (see Heintzelman and Tuttle 2011http://iiccusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Values-in-the-Wind.pdf).   For these Kahuku residential properties, with an estimated value of $400,000, this wind farm would result in the loss of $40,000 to $100,000 per family.  Because local property value is primarily in the value of the land rather than the residence itself (these are single-wall construction 2 bedroom homes), property value effects in Kahuku could exceed losses observed at mainland residences affected by wind farms.  I estimate the properties in the upper subdivision would lose 25% and the properties on the ocean-side of Kamehameha Highway may only lose 10%.  The adverse effect to property value should be assessed by an independent entity selected by the agencies.

Night-time Nuisance Noise Exceeding Legal Limits:  The existing Kahuku and Kawailoa Wind Farms are both more than a kilometer from any residences; Kawailoa is more than 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) from the closest residence and the Kahuku Wind Farm is approximately 1,200 meters (4,000 feet)  from the closest residence.  My understanding from the DLNR Board is Champlin proposes to build turbines 609 meters (2,000 feet) from the Kahuku town residential area containing two schools and a hospital.

1200 Meter Buffer Three Wind Farms closeup may 14a

The two existing wind farms are 1,200 meters from communities; the proposed Na Pua Makani Wind Farm would be 609 meters from the Kahuku community raising serious noise concerns for residents, two schools, and our hospital.  This map is outdated – the exact location of the turbines has not been disclosed.

The legal limit for night-time noise is 45 dBA during no more than 10 percent of any 20-minute period.  When the vacation rental down the street parties and wakes us up at night, we use the “Sound Meter” app on our phones and noise, at my lot line, is below 40 dBA and never spikes above 45 dBA.  Champlin’s EIS indicates the turbine operation AVERAGE (LEQ) noise would be 44 dBA in residential areas.  Please install the “Sound Meter” app on your cell phone so you see how sound works – an example noise graph is below:

noise example

LEQ is the horizontal line (essentially the average noise energy – in this case, for 10 seconds) and the red line is the noise energy over time – the red line is what you’ll see when you use the “Sound Meter” application.  Image From:  http://www.noisenet.org/Noise_Terms_Leq.htm

You’ve noticed noisy things are louder under certain conditions – like when you’re downwind from the noise and when the ground is wet from rain.  If the LEQ (average over the year) wind farm noise in the Kahuku community would be 44 dBA, it seems impossible for the L10 to not exceed 45 dBA.  Unless the wind farm is going to have spikes of very very loud noise that would pull the average way above the noise caused by normal operation, it seems impossible for the L10 to not exceed the legal limit of 45 dBA.  We can assume when the tradewinds are blowing from the wind farm toward the town or when it’s rained, the average noise energy that night will be louder than 45 dBA.  Current L10 noise levels in Kahuku town at night that I’ve measured are between 20 and 35 dBA.  The applicant has not disclosed the nighttime L10 noise for the project and the EIS’s use of LEQ is misleading and unscrupulous – this developer appears to be attempting to get permits based on incomplete and misleading noise information.

In addition to the illegal nighttime noise, there is the serious problem of low frequency noise.  Kahuku and Pupukea residents experience sleep disturbances from wind turbines located more than 1,200 meters downwind from their homes, particularly when the turbines are upwind from their houses.  These Champlin turbines would be upwind from Kahuku town and half the distance of the existing turbines.

Video from a public hearing addressing noise is online here:

Video of the DLNR Contested Case Hearing

Because solar with battery storage is less costly ($0.139/kwh) (less than 0.10/kwh for solar alone, but it does not meet nighttime energy needs), the wind farm is not in HECO ratepayers’ best interest.  Ratepayers would pay $20 Million more for power from Na Pua Makani than they would if that power came from solar with battery storage.  Solar is compatible with grazing (best to avoid installing solar on arable agricultural land) and it doesn’t kill wildlife.  Champlain Wind Power’s Director, Kevin Smith (http://www.champlinenergy.com/our_team.html) is the CEO of SolarReserve LLC, a company that’s installed solar farms all over the world.  I notice they also install the mirror concentrating solar farms in addition to PV with battery storage, but this company certainly has the ability to be pitching in to actually HELP Hawaii meet clean energy goals by building a solar farm with battery storage instead of trying to get permits with this unlawful wind farm.

Status of Permit Applications:  Keep the North Shore Country addressed the endangered bat aspects of the project in a contested case at the DLNR, with hearings held August 7 and 8, 2017.  On November 1, 2017, the DLNR’s contested case hearing officer Yvonne Y. Izu, Esq. recommended the Board of Land and Natural Resources deny the Na Pua Makani Wind Farm’s application for an incidental take license Hearing Officer Recommends Board Deny License.  Without fixing the fatal flaws such as requiring the wind farm to shut down to avoid bat take, the Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the wind farm’s permit on May 15, 2018.  Keep the North Shore Country has appealed this decision in State court. The Circuit Court does not have the authority to overturn Agency decisions, so the case is now at the State Appeals Court level.

Please Help Stop Na Pua Makani from unlawful nighttime operation:  $7,000 is needed for the current State Court Appeals Court stage of the fight.  Please donate to Keep the North Shore Country https://www.keepthenorthshorecountry.org.; personal checks can be mailed to:

Keep the North Shore Country
66-250 Kamehameha Hwy, Suite D103
Haleiwa, HI 96712

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