"THE PRICE FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY IN AMERICAN SAMOA"
I have publicly asked the current leadership of ASPA multiple times since the beginning of October to hold a public hearing to allow our community to better understand ASPA’s current wind farm project and allow questions to be asked and concerns to be voiced. They still have not even publicly revealed that there is a wind farm project planned in this pristine rainforest site. Without any environmental assessment or public hearing, I understand that they are now preparing to bulldoze an access road through the rainforest and cut forest and excavate for construction of a MET tower.
Because this project, at this site, will almost certainly have negative, long lasting and costly impacts on our environment, economy and land, I am humbly asking our Island Leaders, including our Senate, House of Representative and Congresswoman Amata to please look into this current wind farm project and other ASPA renewable energy projects, before allowing ASPA to continue any further with this current project.
In 2019, ASPA awarded contracts, at the same time, for both a 20 MW solar power plant and a 42 MW wind power plant when our island’s demand is only 23 MW.
Why would we want to pay for both power plants, their construction and maintenance costs, to produce an additional 62 MW when our use is 23 MW? Even if both of these power plants run at only half capacity, that is still more energy than our island uses. How is paying for electricity that we won’t use, supposed to reduce our electric bills? What is the current status of these 2 projects?
Also, at that time, was the grid evaluated to see if upgrades were needed to handle the additional and the variable nature of this power, and if so, what would upgrading the grid require and cost?
Now, without either of these 2019 projects being started, ASPA has started a new 42 MW wind farm project in a different site, which I feel is very poorly chosen due to the widespread and long-lasting environmental damage that will be caused.
I understand a 25 year agreement is in place with a new company to provide ASPA with this new 42 MW wind farm at this new site. This is a long time for ASG and the consumer to be legally bound, and I believe we have the right to know the details of a contract and a project that we, our children and grandchildren will be paying for, for a quarter of a century or more. Who is the developer for this project? What company will own the wind farm? What are their track records? Are there any conflicts of interest? If the wind farm produces in excess of our needs, are we legally obligated to pay for the power we will not use? What are other details of the agreement and how/will they change over time and as circumstances change?
The site chosen for this new 42 MW project is on narrow, fragile, ridge tops, between very steeply sloped valleys, filled with numerous streams, all in the middle of a pristine rainforest and in an area where unstudied archeological sites of historic importance are located. To put this project here, and comply with USACE, EPA, NOAA, along with our American Samoa PNRS requirements for maintaining clean surface and drinking water and protecting our endangered terrestrial and marine species and their habitat and our historically valuable sites will be very expensive, if even possible. The additional cost for this project just because it is put in this specific site will be passed on to the consumer. To put the wind farm at this site seems to me to be irresponsible in so many ways. There has to be a better site for this project or better way to bring renewable energy to American Samoa.
What land agreements will ASPA and the developer make with the owners of the land this wind farm will be on? How much land will actually be lost for construction of and use by the wind farm? There will be large areas for the 300 – 500 ft. tall wind turbines themselves, substations, areas lost to extra wide roads to and between turbines, areas lost to roads for transmission lines, cables, areas damaged during construction, etc. etc. Are the landowners getting fair compensation for the use of and rights to their land? What rights will the developer have over this land and for how long? Do terms of this agreement change over time or with changing circumstances? Can payments to landowners be reduced for any reason? Can the land under contract be used for other purposes by the developer? Can the developer transfer or sell these rights to the land to another party? If legal lawsuits arise due to damage (including environmental) from the wind farm on the property, who will be liable? Who will pay for removal of the hundreds of thousands of tons of rusted steel, concrete, etc. after the life of the project or if the wind farm goes bankrupt? Before signing an easement agreement or any other contract involving your land, have a lawyer go over and explain all details, since this contract will last for 25 years.
What is the status of past ASPA solar projects built on Tutuila and Manu’a? Are they all operating and contributing to reducing our dependance on diesel and lowering the electricity costs to the consumer?
Before the current leadership of ASPA is allowed to continue with this current wind farm project, I ask our leaders to please find out the status of past ASPA renewable energy projects, and to look into the details of this current project to determine if it is in the best interest of our community and environment or not.
(EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed by the author of the above LTE is theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Samoa News or any employee thereof.)