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Saunders explains why Ellison didn’t keep rights to Lanai wind farm

Harry Saunders, president of Castle & Cooke Hawaii, says that Larry Ellison was not interested in keeping the rights to Lanai’s 200-megawatt portion of Hawaii’s so-called Big Wind project when he bought the majority of the Pineapple Isle last year.

The main reason was because the Oracle Corp. CEO did not want to get involved with the project, although he does own the land that sits under the planned wind farm. Saunders, in his first interview since the sale of the majority of the island to the billionaire tech titan last year, told PBN that it was just something Ellison didn’t want to get his arms around.

Additionally, David Murdock, Castle & Cooke’s CEO and the former owner of the island, had vested so much time and money into the planned project, that he wasn’t willing to sell the rights to it, Saunders said.

Although there is concern from some residents about the project, Castle & Cooke remains committed to the development, which would utilize an undersea cable to pipe energy to Oahu, where majority of the energy in the state is consumed.

“The concerns of the residents are not to be taken lightly,” Saunders said. “But if it’s the right thing to do, then it’s the right thing to do.”

He says that Castle & Cooke has invested roughly seven years into the concept and has done numerous studies on it, especially from an archaeological aspect.

“We wanted to know if there were major [archaeological] sites and there’s nothing major that we have to disturb,” Saunders said. “We’ve done a third bid for updating the costs and we have sited every single tower and access road. We don’t have the final study, but [we do have] the draft study.”

He pointed out that Ellison’s ownership, which has brought new enthusiasm to the island, has helped sway some opinions about the wind project, which is awaiting a request for proposals from Hawaiian Electric Co.

Meantime, State Energy Office Administrator Mark Glick told PBN earlier this month that the 200-megawatt Lanai wind farm isn’t essential for helping the state reach its renewable energy goals.