As Pattern Energy begins taking action on Molokai to develop a wind farm, two groups are denouncing the Big Wind project, and calling for the neighbor island bidding process to start from scratch.
First Wind is the wind development company awarded the original bid for a project on Molokai in the 2008 agreement between Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), First Wind and Castle & Cooke on Lanai. First Wind recently challenged the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to start the bidding process over after they were pulled from the state’s Interisland Renewable Energy Program, because they were unable to secure land for a Molokai wind farm. They claim the agreement terms were breached when Castle & Cooke was awarded the entire 400 megawatt (MW) development authority.
The 2008 agreement stipulates that if one company is unable to fulfill their part of the agreement, the other company – in this case, Castle & Cooke – will receive the remainder of the project. The document gives the second company the option to develop the full 400 MW wind farm or delegate 200 MW to another company.
Castle & Cooke decided on the second option, striking a deal with Pattern Energy, who has already established a land lease with Molokai Properties Ltd. (MPL).
First Wind CEO Paul Gaynor sent a letter to the PUC, in which he pointed out another provision in the original document. Gaynor wrote that if one of the developers failed to move forward in the project, the other developer could develop 350 MW and the remaining 50 MW would be competitively bid, according to Pacific Business News.
Lanai Speaks Out
Seeing an opportunity to stall or possibly halt the project, anti-wind group Friends of Lanai (FOL) also sent a letter to the PUC asking for the bidding process to be reopened.
“The entire process has been shrouded in secrecy,” said Robin Kaye, spokesman for FOL, in a news release. “There has been no public discussion of costs, no responsible consideration of other means to meet the non-binding goals of the state’s renewable portfolio standards, and no clarity on where the proposed undersea cable might surface on Oahu… The rush to Big Wind should stop here and now.”
Castle & Cooke is currently moving forward with plans to develop a wind farm on Lanai’s northwest side and submitted initial terms of the project to the PUC. The company owns 98 percent of the island.
Pattern Energy officials were on Molokai last week, meeting with selected community members to discuss the development and potential community benefits. Working with them is Bio-Logical Capital, a land development and conservation company partnering with Pattern to facilitate community engagement and benefits.
“For any project to be successful on Molokai, it must be informed by significant community participation,” said Julie Witherspoon, manager of project strategies and acquisitions for Bio-Logical, via email. “We would like to hear from community members the vision and goals for Molokai, thoughts and concerns regarding a wind project, and suggestions on how we could best work with the community to inform this potential project.”
Both companies said the research and development of this project is projected to take three years, where more feedback will be solicited. They did not say when the next community-wide meeting would take place.
“In the conversations we have had so far, it is clear that whether or not people are for or against a potential wind project, they are passionate about protecting the assets and characteristics that define Molokai and about ensuring a future for Molokai that is sustainable,” Witherspoon added.
The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) have posted the comments for their draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) of the wind project. During the scoping period, in which one meeting was held on Molokai in February, over 400 written and oral statements from 200 people were taken, according to a DBEDT news release. The can review the transcripts at their website, hirep-wind.com, and those comments will be published in the draft PEIS, set to be released for review this fall.
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