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HECO must find new bidders for Molokai-Lanai wind project

The Public Utilities Commission ordered Hawaiian Electric Co. Thursday to seek new bidders to develop half of the large-scale wind energy project proposed for Molokai and Lanai.

The order follows a series of events in which HECO dropped Boston-based First Wind LLC from the project because it missed a March deadline to submit plans to develop 200 megawatts of generating capacity on Molokai.

The order allows Castle & Cooke to continue pursuing its plan to develop 200 megawatts of wind energy on Lanai.

Castle & Cooke initially received approval from the Public Utilities Commission in 2008 to develop a full 400 megawatts of wind power on Lanai alone. The agreement was later amended to split the 400 megawatts evenly between Lanai and Molokai.

Under that deal, Castle & Cooke was to develop 200 megawatts on Lanai with First Wind pursuing 200 megawatts on Molokai.

However when First Wind missed the March deadline, Castle & Cooke stepped in and said it would “assign” half of its original 400 megawatts of generating capacity to Molokai Ranch and Pattern Energy Group.

The PUC ruled that Castle & Cooke did not have the authorization to do so.

“Part of the PUC’s role in clean energy development in Hawaii is to ensure an open and fair process,” PUC Chairwoman Hermina Morita said in a news release.

Castle & Cooke and HECO’s “proposed assignment of 200 megawatts to Molokai Ranch goes beyond the scope of the PUC’s waiver from the original competitive bid process,” Morita said.

The PUC gave HECO 90 days to restart the bidding.

In its order the PUC also noted that this ruling did not constitute approval of Castle & Cooke’s Lanai project.

“Castle & Cooke and HECO still must seek PUC approval for their negotiated power purchase agreement and, if applicable, the community benefit agreements,” according to the order.

Castle & Cooke also must complete a required environmental review and seek land-use and other permitting approvals.