First Wind Hawaii, the principal partner of Maui’s Kaheawa Wind Farm, has apparently been frozen out of the no-bid project called “Big Wind” that is a centerpiece of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative.
First Wind officials said they were not able to find a site to locate a proposed 200-megawatt wind farm on Molokai, because the island’s major landowner, Molokai Ranch, refused to negotiate with them. Last month, the Public Utilities Commission rejected First Wind’s request for more time to identify a location for the project, ruling that First Wind was not a party to the 2008 agreement that evaded the usual competitive bidding process.
“We’re disappointed, but it was not unexpected,” said John Lamontagne, director of corporate com-munications for First Wind. “We appreciate the PUC’s consideration.”
First Wind Chief Executive Officer Paul Gaynor warned the PUC in a letter in March that if plans for a Molokai wind farm falter, “the state would have put itself in a situation where there is a single point of failure – the Lanai wind farm.”
The no-bid project stems from an earlier request by Hawaiian Electric Co. for companies to submit proposals for the development of 100 megawatts of renewable energy on Oahu.
The Public Utilities Commission has rejected a request by First Wind LLC for more time to submit a document outlining its plans for a proposed wind energy project on Molokai.
First Wind had sought an eight-month extension past a March 18 deadline to file a “term sheet” that would have served as a precursor to an potential agreement with Hawaiian Electric Co., to buy power from the proposed 200-megawatt project. However, First Wind missed the deadline because it was not able to reach agreement with land owner Molokai Ranch on a potential site for the wind turbine project.
In a letter dated April 29 the PUC told First Wind that the wind energy company was not authorized to request an extension because it was not an official party in the proceedings. The PUC said such an extension request would have to be filed by HECO, which is a party in the case. However, HECO previously said it would not file for an extension on First Wind’s behalf.
After First Wind missed the March 18 deadline Molokai Ranch announced that it had begun talks with a new developer, Pattern Energy Group, on building the Molokai wind energy project.
A community group that opposes the development of large-scale wind farms on Lanai and Molokai is asking state regulators to reopen the bidding process for the projects, saying the original agreement is no longer valid because one of the developers dropped out.
An attorney for Friends of Lanai said a decision by First Wind LLC not to pursue the Molokai portion of the proposed project triggered a series of events that were not authorized under the original approval granted by the Public Utilities Commission last fall.
First Wind withdrew from the project after missing a key March 18 deadline set by the PUC to show that it was making progress on its planned 200-megawatt Molokai wind project. Castle & Cooke Resorts, which is pursuing a 200-megawatt wind project on Lanai, met the deadline. The two projects, dubbed “Big Wind,” would transmit electricity to Oahu via an undersea cable under a plan that is still in the preliminary stages.
Friends of Lanai attorney Isaac Hall noted that the PUC had to grant a waiver for the Big Wind project to proceed because its proposed size exceeded Hawaiian Electric Co.’s original request for proposals of up to 100 megawatts of renewable energy.
“Since only one party timely complied (with the PUC deadline), Friends of Lanai believes that the waiver is no longer valid
Castle & Cooke said it has transfered a portion of its wind development authority to a mainland company that is proposing to build a large-scale wind energy project on Molokai.
The agreement would allow Pattern Energy Group to develop up to 200 megawatts of wind power on Molokai in tandem with 200 megawatts Castle & Cooke is proposing for Lanai. Under the plan wind energy from both projects would be transmitted to Oahu via an undersea cable.
Castle & Cooke initially received approval 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 Boston-based First Wind LLC pursuing 200 megawatts on Molokai.
However, First Wind was unable to reach an agreement with landowner Molokai Ranch to buy or lease land for its project. First Wind also missed a deadline set by the Public Utilities Commission to advance its proposal. That opened the door for San Francisco-based Pattern to pursue the Molokai part of the so-called “Big Wind” project.
Pattern said it has been identified by Molokai Ranch as the preferred developer should the project move forward. The project has met with community opposition on Molokai.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie would – if necessary – have the state exercise its right to eminent domain to condemn Molokai lands for a wind-energy project, “if residents agree that a project can be done in a pono way.”
The governor’s comment is contained in a March 3 position statement on a potential Molokai wind farm when it looked like First Wind and Molokai Properties were going to be unable to reach a deal on a wind-energy project for the island. After that happened, the landowner announced that it was teaming up with a new company, San Francisco-based Pattern Energy Group, to proceed with the project.
The governor’s spokeswoman, Donalyn Dela Cruz, said Friday that the use of the state’s power to condemn property on Molokai looks moot because there now appears to be a wind-energy project moving forward.
However, “we are watching closely to see what happens,” she said.
The governor’s position statement on the Molokai wind farm project seeks a middle ground between Abercrombie’s support for alternative-energy projects and his desire to be sensitive to the community and its needs.
“Producing our own energy in Hawaii is crucial for our survival,” Abercrombie said in his position statement. “The proposed ‘Big Wind’ project that would produce electricity on Lanai and Molokai can be a crucial part of the equation.
KIHEI – The developer of a wind farm proposed for Ulupalakua will hold two public meetings this month to gather public comments on the project.
Auwahi Wind Energy LLC, a subsidiary of Sempra Generation, is proposing to build a 21-megawatt wind energy and battery storage project on land owned by Ulupalakua Ranch. It would sell electricity to Maui Electric Co., although the deal must be approved by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.
Construction is scheduled to begin next year, with the facility fully operational as early as the end of 2012. Federal, state and county agencies are reviewing the environmental impact of the project, which would be capable of generating electricity equivalent to the amount used by 10,000 Maui homes.
The meetings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Lokelani Intermediate School Cafeteria and from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 13 at the Ulupalakua Community Center.
Copies of the draft environmental impact statement for the project can be found at hawaii.gov/health/environ mental/oeqc/index.html.
Send comments to:
Auwahi Energy LLC, 101 Ash St., HQ 14, San Diego, Calif. 92101, attention, Mitch Dmohowski.
The Maui Planning Commission, 250 S. High St., Wailuku 96793, attention Joe Prutch.
Consultant Tetra Tech EC Inc., 737 Bishop St., Suite 3020, Honolulu 96813, attention Anna Mallon.
Sempra Generation has signed a 20-year contract to sell wind energy to Maui Electric Co. from Sempra’s 21-megawatt Auwahi Wind project on the Ulupalakua Ranch in the southeastern region of Maui.
Sempra said it expects to begin construction on Auwahi Wind in early 2012, creating about 150 local construction jobs at peak and about five positions to operate the facility. The project is currently undergoing an environmental review by Maui County, and state and federal agencies.
When fully operational in late 2012, Auwahi Wind will be capable of generating enough energy to power 10,000 typical Maui homes, the company said.
The project will have a battery storage unit could store as much as 12 megawatt-hours of wind energy generated by the project’s wind turbines. The stored power will help to smooth the fluctuations normally associated with wind power.
The contract between Maui Electric Company and Sempra Generation is subject to approval by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.
Maui already has 51 megawatts of generating capacity from the Kaheawa I and Kaheawa II wind projects developed by First Wind LLC on a ridge above Maalaea.
Pattern Energy Group is expected to “engage all of the community”
Molokai Properties Ltd. said it is teaming up with a new company to develop a proposed wind energy project on the island after it was unable to come to terms with its previous partner, First Wind LLC.
MPL joined forces with San Francisco-based Pattern Energy Group on the project that, as envisioned, would transmit wind-generated electricity to Oahu via an undersea cable. The project, with 90 wind turbines and a generating capacity of 200 megawatts, represents half of the so-called Big Wind project that would include the transmission of an equal amount of wind energy from Lanai to Oahu.
Executives from Pattern and Molokai Properties held three community meetings in early March to brief the community on the proposal, said Peter Nicholas, MPL’s chief executive officer. Nicholas said he hoped Pattern’s plan would be better received by the community than what had been proposed by First Wind.
MPL broke off talks with First Wind in November following two rounds of negotiations in which the two sides were unable to reach agreement on a land price and the approach to community involvement. MPL, which also does business as Molokai Ranch, owns 60,000 acres on Molokai, or about 40 percent of the island.
Some South Maui residents are upset about a developer’s plan to use a resort road through Wailea and Makena for construction truck access as it builds a wind farm on 120 acres of Ulupalakua Ranch land.
“It’s going to affect us economically,” said Bud Pikrone, general manager of the Wailea Community Association.
Pikrone said developer Auwahi Wind Energy LLC’s activities will create noise in a hotel and residential resort area and cause wear and tear on the roads.
Pikrone said in the last seven years, Wailea Alanui Road has had three sinkholes, including one that closed off an area for 18 months.
He said various large landowners plan to hold a meeting with Auwahi Wind next month to discuss rerouting the truck traffic farther mauka and closer to Piilani Highway.
“We’re hoping we can come up with some resolution,” Pikrone said.
The Maui County Planning Commission held a public hearing Tuesday to review Auwahi Wind’s draft environmental impact statement.
Auwahi Wind needs the commission to accept its environmental impact statement before moving to seek land-use permits.