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. It would be an important step in my stated goal of connecting our islands so that we can be more self-sufficient and sustainable.”
However, the governor said the wind projects “must proceed in a way that produces benefits for the people and the communities of those islands.” He said, “These community benefits should help move the islands toward sustainable futures of their own. Because I expect those benefits to be substantial, I believe it is imperative that both islands – Molokai and Lanai – have the opportunity to participate.”
The governor also said the wind projects must represent the majority interests of residents of the respective islands.
“No individual or private interest should have the ability to veto the entire project because of their objections as long as their views are considered and discussed with respect,” Abercrombie said. “If the Molokai landowner is incapable of participating in a viable plan for the island, the state is willing to exercise its right to condemn lands for this public purpose, again, if residents agree that a project can be done in a pono way.”
The proposed wind farm on Molokai would have 90 wind turbines with a capacity of 200 megawatts to transmit wind-generated electricity to Oahu via an undersea cable. Molokai Properties broke off talks with First Wind in November after two rounds of negotiations in which the two sides were unable to reach an agreement on a land price and the approach to community involvement.
The other half of the “Big Wind” project is on Lanai, where residents turned out in force in February to express strong opposition to bringing the project to their island. Residents expressed concern about how the project proposed by Castle & Cooke could impact the environment, cultural sites, hunting access and scenic views if it were to proceed on 12,800 acres on the northwestern end of the island.
Pattern Energy officials said they hoped they would do a better job than First Wind in overcoming similar community opposition on Molokai.
The company aims to locate wind turbines on 11,000 acres leased from Molokai Properties both north and south of Maunaloa.