In light of a missed March 18 deadline to secure land for developing a 200-megawatt wind farm on Molokai, Boston-based First Wind is now hoping to develop the wind farm on Maui, according to First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne, in a statement to PBN.
Lamontagne said it was premature to speculate on how big of a wind farm could go on Maui.
The originally proposed Molokai wind farm is part of a larger wind project designed to bring 200 megawatts of wind energy from Molokai and 200 megawatts of wind energy from Lanai to Oahu. It’s commonly referred to as the “Big Wind” project.
Lamontagne said that First Wind was “hopeful that Hawaii’s elected officials and the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism will be supportive of this approach.”
A First Wind representative told PBN on Thursday that given the failed negotiations on Molokai, it was the company’s understanding that in accordance with the agreement between First Wind and Hawaiian Electric Co., no other company was permitted to come in and develop the wind farm on Molokai. In the past, HECO officials have told PBN that if the Molokai project fell through then Lanai could receive all 400 megawatts of wind energy.
In a prepared statement, Lamontagne also responded to criticism from Peter Nicholas, CEO of Molokai Ranch, that representatives from First Wind failed to work with the local community to explain the project. The land designated for the project is on acreage owned by Molokai Ranch.
Nicholas told PBN this week that “First Wind never sought community input [on the project], despite us urging them to do that. So we reluctantly had to tell First Wind that we would no longer work with them.”
Nicholas said that First Wind had made two proposals to purchase the land on Molokai Ranch. He said the last one was rejected in June of last year. However, Lamontagne said that First Wind had made “six good-faith offers” for the land. In the statement, he also said that First Wind representatives held more than 15 community meetings on Molokai to discuss the benefits and impacts of a wind energy project.
“From these discussions, we found many residents who were supportive of developing a wind project on the island of Molokai – one that could deliver clean, renewable energy to Oahu, while also providing reciprocal benefits to Molokai by providing lower utility rates, a clean energy source, jobs, cultural and environmental preservation, and educational opportunities for its youth,” Lamontagne said.
Nicholas told PBN that Molokai Ranch had chosen a new wind company, San Francisco-based Pattern Energy, as its preferred developer if the “Big Wind” project were to go forward on Molokai. Pattern Energy representatives held community meetings on Molokai in March.
The wind project has attracted intense criticism from residents on Lanai and Molokai for the effects that the dozens of wind turbines could have on the small islands’ landscape, hunting and fishing grounds and archaeological sites. The wind energy also will benefit only Oahu – not Lanai and Molokai.
HECO spokesman Peter Rosegg said that utility officials were “working through these issues now and hope to be able to provide more details in the coming weeks.”
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