In Hawaii, transition to renewables causes angst

It would be a stretch to say that Hawaii’s renewable energy companies, the utilities and the public are moving together in harmony toward a clean energy future.

Often the transition looks more like a boxing match than the peaceful images presented in Hawaiian Electric Co.’s ads featuring green fields, wind turbines and smiling customers.

And today’s tribulations are nothing new.

In the 1980s, heated community opposition on the Big Island curtailed the development of geothermal energy. A lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club, no less, was the final straw for one of the geothermal developers — True Geothermal Energy Co. — which after 10 years of trying to develop the resource decided to finally pack it up.

Wind energy is faring little better, with heated opposition on Lanai and Molokai about plans to locate somewhere in the range of 180 wind turbines on the quiet islands to power Oahu’s high energy needs. On Oahu, Hawaiian Electric’s plan to build a wind farm on the Leeward Coast was eventually scrapped following community protests about the concentration of power plants and smokestacks in the area, and NIMBY sentiment.

On Kauai, community concerns about hydroelectric energy are just getting started — and with sensitivities about water they’re unlikely to die quickly. Even rooftop solar panels haven’t escaped unscathed. Condo management companies have fought PV in the past, worried that the panels were unsightly, disrupted the uniformity of their developments and could bring down property values.

Read more in Pacific Business News.

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