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and Molokai is asking state regulators to reopen the bidding process for the projects, saying the original agreement is no longer valid because one of the developers dropped out.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“Since only one party timely complied (with the PUC deadline), Friends of Lanai believes that the waiver is no longer valid and the competitive bidding process needs to start over,” Hall said.
First Wind was dealt a major setback when it was unable to reach an agreement with landowner Molokai Ranch on a price for land for its wind project. The two companies broke off talks in November, and in December Molokai Ranch found a new development partner, Pattern Energy Group.
Castle & Cooke initially received approval to develop 400 megawatts of generating capacity on Lanai, but later agreed to split the project, with First Wind developing half of the total on Molokai. After First Wind dropped out, Castle & Cooke announced it would transfer half of its original 400-megawatt wind energy allocation to Pattern.
Friends of Lanai said it did not believe Castle & Cooke’s transfer should be allowed under the PUC ruling.
“Pattern Energy is not a party to any PUC docket, nor party to any agreement with any public agency in Hawaii,” Friends of Lanai said in a news release. “Despite claims to the contrary, Friends of Lanai believes HECO and C&C have no right, and no authority, to arbitrarily ‘select’ a new developer.”
Castle & Cooke and Hawaiian Electric declined comment. Officials from Pattern Energy did not respond to a request for comment.
Friends of Lanai spokesman Robin Kaye said none of the parties involved in the Big Wind project has provided enough information for the public to have a proper discussion of its merits.
“The entire project has been shrouded in secrecy. There has been no public discussion of costs, no responsible consideration of other means to meet the nonbinding goals of the state’s renewable portfolio standards, and no clarity on where the proposed undersea cable might surface on Oahu,” Kaye said.