A package of benefits to be paid by Castle & Cooke and Hawaiian Electric Co. to Lanai’s 3,600 residents in exchange for them hosting a 200-megawatt wind farm for the benefit of Oahu residents has finally materialized.
Should the project go forward, the wind energy would be transported to Oahu through an undersea cable, and is projected to offset 15 percent of Oahu’s oil use.
The benefits are the result of three years of meetings and negotiations between residents and officials with HECO, including Executive Vice President Robbie Alm; Castle & Cooke, which owns the land on Lanai; and, the state’s energy division.
The benefits are in exchange for residents hosting the wind farm, for which one-fifth of island land has been designated. Lanai residents can’t take advantage of the energy being produced because their electric grid is unable to accept the high-energy penetration.
Known as the Big Wind project, the total plan includes 400 mw of energy, with Lanai and Molokai hosting 200 mw each. However, negotiations with Molokai are not as far along. If the Molokai project falls through, it’s possible that Lanai would receive all 400 megawatts. Parties to the project have indicated that the land on Molokai has yet to be “locked down.”
Alm told PBN that he hoped the plan, which includes contributions from Hawaiian Electric and Castle & Cooke, reflected their understanding that Lanai would be making a significant sacrifice, that their concerns were heard and that the package is reflective of stated community needs.
The project has given rise to opposition on Lanai by residents concerned about the disruption of hunting and fishing practices, damage to cultural and archaeological sites and the significant impact on their landscape.
The following benefits still must be approved by the Public Utilities Commission:
• Electricity rates for Lanai residents would be reduced by 40 percent, on par with Oahu rates.
• A commitment to residents that Lanai will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 through solar, wind, biomass and biofuel resources.
• Upgrades to the island’s electric grid to allow for more “distributed generation,” which includes rooftop photovoltaic arrays and wind turbines that directly power a home or business.
• More solar water heating for residents, with the utility paying upfront costs and being re-compensated through shared savings on utility bills.
Without needing PUC approval, Hawaiian Electric commits to the following:
• A $50,000 a year contribution to the Lanai Community Fund, contributed from shareholder funds.
• A $30,000 contribution for at least two years from Hawaiian Electric and Maui Electric companies for a grassroots campaign for energy efficiency and conservation.
Without needing PUC approval, Castle & Cooke commits to the following:
• The establishment of Lanai Community Benefits Fund derived from 1 percent of proceeds from the wind farm’s gross revenues. Funds will be used for economic diversification and job creation; health and social services; education, training and recreation; and, the preservation of cultural and natural resources. At least $100,000 a year will be contributed to the Lanai Cultural and Heritage Foundation.
• The number of Lanai residents employed by Castle & Cooke will be no lower than the current figure.
• Full access to coastal fishing in the Kaa area and continued access to hunting areas. If hunting is limited by wind turbines, comparative acreage will be provided for hunting before any limits go into effect.
• The ability of residents who lease land from Castle & Cooke to be able to purchase residential, agricultural and commercial properties at fair market prices.
• Priority given to Lanai residents as contractors and for construction jobs related to the wind project’s development.
• Wind generation facilities will be removed when no longer in service.
• Contractors will be required to protect archaeological and cultural sites, and Lanai residents will be able to monitor this when possible.
• Five-thousand acres will be reserved for creating a viable biofuel crop.
• Castle & Cooke will donate $250,000 a year for the preservation of the Lanai Hale watershed.
• At least $500,000 a year will be donated for capital improvements to the Lanai water system, and 250,000 gallons of water a day will also be allocated for use in diversifying agriculture.