There's no way you could miss the giant, white windmills along the North Shore of O‘ahu. They dot the long stretch of mountain about 10 miles outside of Hale‘iwa; a second, separate farm is several miles south of that, in Kahuku.
Wind turbines working hard in Kahuku, located on O‘ahu's North Shore.
If you're like many visitors who only come to Hawai‘i "every once-in-a-while," then you'll most likely wonder where all of that came from. Definitely a different scene than last time, right? It had been about a year since I was on the North Shore and found myself just as surprised when I recently saw the windmills in front of Waimea Bay.
While Hawai‘i currently has four wind farms, the most recent one outside of Hale‘iwa is the largest. Its 30 windmills power up about 14,500 island homes and broke ground in February 2012, just about a year after the business deal was sealed. The 12 turbines in Kahuku generate enough power for up to 7,700 homes on O‘ahu.
Maui had the first wind farm in the state. This was back in 2006, paving the way for the state's long-term goal of being energy self-sufficient, environmentally sustainable and secure for future generations. There used to be a wind farm on the Big Island, but after its 20-year contract expired in 2007, things went downhill. The 37 wind turbines corroded and rusted into place until they were finally removed several years later and sold as scrap metal.
As encouraging as these farms can be for Hawai‘i's self-sufficiency, there will always be those – like Moloka‘i residents – who complain about the windmills' unsightly appearance; they're big and not the most flattering for our lush mountainscape. Most of the residents have been fighting the state, which wants to build a wind farm on their island. It would connect to an undersea cable that brings power to O‘ahu.
Like many people I've talk to, I have mixed feelings about wind farms in Hawai‘i. Obviously, there's no sense fighting it any more since they've already been fired up. Of course, we can complain, but what good does that do? I will say that I used to look forward to coming out to the North Shore, as an escape from the city. The small rural towns and untouched landscape out there was like no other place on Earth. Now when I look up toward those same North Shore mountains, I don't really get that same peaceful feel.
I support the idea of renewable energy and saw all the good it has been doing on Maui. For future generations, right? But I didn't realize how close to home it would hit when something like this came to the island I live on. It's just something we have to get used to, I guess, like the booming urban cities, the increased traffic and the plume of pollution that follows. It's the sad truth that many residents are faced with, as global resources get slimmer and slimmer every year. There's nowhere to turn but to the beauties that Mother Nature gifted us with many years ago.
November 4th, 2012