The World Would Be 20- to 36-times Better Off If We Tore Down Oahu’s Wind Turbines and Burned Coal

Every moment a wind turbine STOPS spinning, Hawaii’s people and wildlife benefit.  Let’s do real conservation instead of pouring half a billion dollars into the pockets of foreign investors.

After our June 4th Sunset Elementary evening meeting with the leadership of the Hawaii House, where we learned Hawaii planned to meet clean energy targets using carbon offsets, I did some math.  The calculations we compiled these past two weeks are going to surprise you:

For the $0.15 to $0.22/kwh we would pay Champlin (Na Pua Makani) and Kawailoa Wind Farm to feed power into the grid, the World would be better off if we burned coal (at $0.05/kwh) and used the remaining $0.10 to $0.17/kwh (which amounts to $33 million/year; $660 million over a 20-year period) to pay  The Nature Conservancy or Hawaii Forest Industry Association to plant forests to sequester the CO2 emissions from that coal (Link to my Carbon Calculations Spreadsheet).  That $33 million per year, in tree planting would offset the CO2 from that small amount of coal burning 20- to 36-times over.  It looks like that same $33 million/year we’d be giving away to these two wind farms would also be enough money to double the Hawaii DLNR’s total annual statewide budget (for DOFAW plus all the other Divisions).

Instead of paying these two proposed wind farms a combined $44 million/year to feed power into the grid (Kawailoa’s gross receipts is approximately $34 million/year and Na Pua Makani would gross around $10 million/year), we could instead produce that same amount of power by burning coal, at an annual total cost of $11 million and use the remaining $33 million per year to pay a non-profit to plant trees to sequester CO2 from the atmosphere.  Over a 20-year wind farm operation period, $33 million in carbon offset funding per year amounts to $660 million (more than half a billion dollars) that could have paid to plant koa trees that live for 80 years – their dense wood could then have been made into furniture that’s so resistant to damage that it lasts another 80 – plus years.  Thank you Hawaii Free Press for alerting me that liquefied natural gas is even cheaper, and to a friend for pointing out solar and hydrogen storage will soon also be cheaper than coal.

The opportunity cost of allowing these wind farms to operate in Hawaii is that we’re foregoing the ability to use the people of Hawaii’s hard-earned money to actually do something to reduce atmospheric carbon (and to keep American’s cash in the US).  For HECO rate-payers, if you were required to get all your power from the Kawailoa Wind Farm’s that would mean a $200/month electric bill would skyrocket to $880/month – and all that money would pour to one or more overseas investors.

The benefits (or lack thereof) of the wind farm’s proposed endangered bat “mitigation” (whether it’s $2 million pittance for conservation of a tiny forest area or a measly $10 million for research) it pales in comparison to all the tangible good that could be done with the $660 million we would have if we didn’t hand it over to the wind farm investors.

The proposed unmitigated harms to vulnerable endangered bats and Native Hawaiian residents are egregious and unlawful (Champlin and Kahuku Resident Post).  Champlin and Kawailoa wind farm have only progressed to where the false claims in their environmental documents have misled regulators and the public (Champlin SFEISKawailoa EA).  Shutting the turbines down at night to save the endangered bats at these two wind farms would free up half the money that’s pouring out of our pockets ($16.5 million/year, 330 million over 20 years).

In light of new information about the ineffectiveness of bat mitigation and the undisclosed adverse effects of wind farms, I have, without reservation, publicly opposed wind farm development in Hawaii’s sensitive environment for the past 16 months.  Hawaii wind farms are poised to kill half as many endangered animals as were killed in the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill disaster – including approximately 500 endangered bats for which there is no known effective mitigation.  Armed with this new information about the staggering opportunity costs of giving significant amounts of money away to foreign-funded wind developers, I can only hope regulators will chose wisely when they review the two wind farm applications under their current consideration.

Please help fight the Na Pua Makani Wind Farm’s unlawful State endangered species license by supporting Keep the North Shore Country.

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