At a community meeting last night on Molokai, something unusual happened: instead of a tense, emotional atmosphere plagued with the worries and hardened positions from the past, more than 80 community advocates came to a consensus: they are in favor of considering the proposed UPC Wind project. Two hours of discussion headed by activist Walter Ritte lead to a vote, “do we support the concept of supporting [UPC Wind?].” It was unanimous.
Molokai Community Service Center executive director Karen Holt was at the nucleus of the meeting. She and other community leaders have been working together with UPC Wind to develop a viable wind energy concept for Molokai on the west end of the island. UPC Wind pledged $50 million to the idea in November after numerous community meetings around the island. That money would go to the “Buy the Ranch” campaign Holt runs.
Since the announcement last week of the pending closing of the Ranch April 5 and the pending loss of 113 permanent jobs on Molokai, community advocates have been scrambling for a solution to the short-term problem of jobs, and the longer-term problem of consistent, stable economic stimulus for the island. The UPC Wind project seems to present a good alternative for the community. The problem? The Ranch’s reputed $200 million price tag.
Community leaders agreed to split into three teams last Saturday at the Molokai Community Service Center, attacking the problem of fundraising and long-term solutions with a multi-pronged approach. The group came together to distill some 30 community plans for the island into a grid, detailing what residents have wanted to do with Molokai for the past 30 years, and what they want to do with the ‘aina in the future.
Holt said, “We have 15 minutes to buy the Ranch, and I think we’re at 12 minutes right now… I would love to buy the Ranch without windmills, because we don’t want to look at ‘em. But it’s a sacrifice worth making.”
As of Wednesday night, the group has decided to pursue the UPC Wind proposal, which could put as many as 140 windmills on Ranch and DHHL lands near Ho’olehua while granting the community control of the project. UPC would then sell the electricity generated to Oahu at a wholesale price. A small percentage of the gross price would be tied to the lease for the land.
If the group can find major donors to make up the rest of the purchase price for the land, and if Molokai Ranch is in fact for sale, the community will be able to finally decide what it wants to do with the 62,500 acre property.
By Kate Gardiner
3 April 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding