HONOLULU — A Honolulu zoning proposal aimed at restricting the installation of energy-producing windmills has received preliminary approval from a city government committee.
The Honolulu City Council Zoning Committee approved the resolution last week banning installation of the windmills within 5 miles of neighboring properties, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday.
City officials warned the change would essentially eliminate future development of wind farms anywhere on Oahu.
The resolution must be passed by the full city council before going into effect.
Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi introduced the resolution in response to an outcry from residents in Kahuku over the development of the Na Pua Makani wind-power project.
AES Corp. received city permits for the project, which includes eight high-wind turbines standing 568 feet. The turbines have been installed and are expected to be operational by summer.
The turbines would generate up to 25 megawatts of electricity daily, or enough to power about 16,000 homes. AES reduced the number of turbines from an initial 13 but increased the size of the turbines.
There is no evidence supporting opponents’ claims that the wind turbines are too close to the community and can cause detrimental health effects, AES said.
The Hawaiian Electric Co. submitted written testimony raising concerns the proposal might eliminate the potential for any new wind projects on Oahu.
“The community of Kahuku has had serious concerns about the construction of windmills right behind homes, residences, farm dwellings, and schools,” said Tsuneyoshi, whose proposal would not affect the AES project.
The resolution instructs the city Department of Planning and Permitting to amend the land use ordinance to require wind-power machines with capacity of more than 100 kilowatts to be set back at least 5 miles from their property lines.
Acting Planning Director Kathy Sokugawa expressed reservations about the resolution.
“Our preliminary work says the proposed 5-mile distance would essentially limit any property on the island” under planning department jurisdiction from hosting wind turbines, Sokugawa said, noting the change may allow wind farms on land overseen by state agencies.
The planning and permitting department raised concerns about the proposal in a December letter to the council.
The department requested scientific evidence backing the setback distance and questioning how the limitation would reconcile with state and city policy goals of ending the use of nonrenewable energy sources by 2045.