Molokai Renewables developers confirmed last week they will place a bid to build a 200 megawatt (MW) wind farm on Molokai once a new request for proposals (RFP) is released this fall. Meanwhile, activist group I Aloha Molokai (IAM) continues to speak against the proposal in new and creative ways, including a film series, Facebook page and an upcoming Molokai energy festival.
The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) gave Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) 90 days in July to create the new RFP. The decision found HECO did not follow due process in allowing developer Castle & Cooke, which planned to build a 400 megawatt wind farm on Lanai, to assign half of its MW to Pattern Energy to be built on Molokai after another developer, First Wind, failed to submit paperwork on time.
Energy generated would be transmitted to Oahu via an undersea cable, although the efficiency of transmission is debatable. The PUC said companies may propose to generate the 200 MW using any form of clean energy on any island that could “reasonably” reach Oahu via the cable.
The 90-day period ends Oct. 14, after which the PUC must approve HECO’s RFP before developers may bid.
“At this time, Molokai Renewables does plan on submitting a bid when the final RFP is issued,” Keiki-Pua Dancil, vice president of Hawaii Business Development and Strategy at Bio-Logical Capital, said via email. Bio-Logical partnered with Pattern this year to create Molokai Renewables and pursue the project.
But organizers of IAM, which formed in May this year in opposition to the proposed project, said there are no benefits worth the impact of building dozens of turbines more than 40 stories high and likelihood of destroying reef to build the undersea cable. As a result of weekly meetings at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) conference room, they’ve recently expanded their communications efforts to better reach residents of Molokai, Hawaii and the mainland, as well as media and politicians.
“Soon the RFP will be coming out and people will be coming with their bids, and people are gonna be offering benefits to the island,” said IAM organizer Kanoho Helm, “and we ask the people of Molokai to stand strong if they love their lifestyle here on Molokai.”
Developer Moving Forward
Dancil confirmed Molokai Renewables is continuing initial studies of the potential construction sites as they await the RFP’s release.
“We remain committed to working with [Molokai residents] to seek to create a sustainable project that restores and conserves the land, preserves the rich culture and way of life, and protects the ocean and local food supply that Molokai depends on, and provides other substantial benefits to the Molokai community,” she said.
Dancil added that if its bid is selected, the company will “continue to solicit feedback and input from Molokai residents before we bring a proposed plan to them for consideration.”
The confirmations arrive as Governor Neil Abercrombie increases his public support for the project, condoning it on a recently aired PBS program. He was one of 24 governors to sign a July 20 letter asking President Obama for a “combined intergovernmental state-federal task force on wind energy development … charged with expediting deployment activities,” among other things.
IAM Reaching Out
Helm, an IAM founder, said the group’s current focus is education – especially of locals, because “we’re the people who’s gonna be affected the most.”
“Our organization is growing,” Helm said. “It’s getting stronger and stronger as people are getting more and more educated.”
Nearly 400 people are official IAM members, according to organizer Cheryl Corbiell. To be counted, people must fill out a membership form available at IAM meetings, at their Saturday market booths in Kaunakakai and Kualapu`u, or on their newly updated website, IAlohaMolokai.com.
The website’s update coincides with the creation of a new Facebook page, “I Aloha Molokai,” which had garnered more than 220 fans as of last Sunday. The organization also released two short films written, edited and produced pro bono by award-winning documentarian PF Bentley, a Molokai resident and IAM member.
The films, which are available on fundraising website Kickstarter.com, the “I Aloha Molokai” Facebook page, YouTube.com and Vimeo.com, are a way “to let people know what’s going on here, and to show what we are fighting to save and what’s here,” Bentley said.
Among all of the sites, they’ve already garnered thousands of views; the first film tallied with nearly 3,000 hits in less than two weeks via YouTube alone.
IAM also secured Mitchell Pauole Center for Jan. 14, 2012 to host an energy festival, in which alternative energy vendors from Molokai, Oahu and elsewhere will provide information and sell services to interested individuals.
“It … shows people that we are looking for solutions,” Helm said. “We’re not just an ‘anti’ group. We’re looking for solutions here on Molokai, but also for the state and the world, for that matter.”
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