Maui Wind Power Project Challenges

September 9, 2011

Being environmentally responsible can be difficult, even when you are being environmentally responsible. For example, a wind power project in the Kahikinui area of southeast Maui has been tasked with the difficult process of assessing their future impact on endangered petrels and endangered Hawaiian hoary bats. Fortunately, they have the aid of a $1.2 million federal-state to help them both assess and mitigate their impact on these species.

The petrels are migratory birds, and state wildlife officials are planning to begin a count of the population in the Kahikinui area by October before they move along on their migratory path. Habitat will be assessed and populations counted for both the birds and the bats. Then, they will plan how to offset any negative impact that the spinning turbines will create on the survival of individuals within those populations. For those of you are confused, those turbines move a lot faster than they seem to be from far away, and flying animals are sometimes struck fatally.

The wind projects are being planned by Kawailoa Wind Power on Oahu and Auwahi Wind Energy in Ulupalakua. Fortunately, these projects are required to create a benefit to the population sizes that is at least equal to the number of losses they cause. This will be accomplished through habitat conservation plans that take population baselines into account before the turbines begin affecting the population.

It will be interesting to see how the involved parties will manage habitat enhancement. That should require some creativity, and hopefully a great deal of thought will be put into making sure it’s done right. We’ll have to keep an eye on this project in the future.

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