Oracle CEO Larry Ellison envisions his recently acquired Hawaiian island becoming a “little laboratory” for experimenting with more environmentally sound ways to live.
Ellison’s ambitions include converting sea water into fresh water on the 141-square-mile island of Lanai. He also wants to see more electric cars on the island located near Maui, and hopes to increase its fruit exports to Japan and other markets.
Ellison, one of the world’s wealthiest men, made the remarks on Tuesday in San Francisco in an interview with the financial news channel CNBC.
The interview focused mostly on Oracle, a business-software maker that Ellison has been running for 35 years. He also touched upon several other topics, including his friendship with the late Steve Jobs and his interest in buying the Los Angeles Lakers, if the professional basketball team were ever for sale.
Oracle’s success has minted Ellison an estimated fortune of $US41 billion. He bought 98 per cent of Lanai from billionaire David Murdock in June for an undisclosed price. The Maui News reported that Murdock, the CEO of Castle & Cooke, was seeking $US500 million to $US600 million for his Lanai holdings.
Ellison hadn’t publicly shared his vision for Lanai until Tuesday’s interview. The silence had left Lanai’s roughly 3200 residents wondering whether their lives would be disrupted under Ellison’s ownership.
In Tuesday’s interview, Ellison said he intends to “support the local people”.
Ellison’s Lanai holdings include two resorts, two golf courses and assorted commercial and residential buildings. Three utilities on the island also are under Ellison’s control
A solar energy project that supplies Lanai with 10 percent of its electricity needs recently began operating at full capacity after a battery system was installed to better integrate the renewable power into the small island electrical grid.
The La Ola photovoltaic solar project, owned by Castle & Cooke, has a maximum output of 1.5 megawatts of direct current, or 1.2 megawatts of after converting the power to alternating current for household use.
Since launch of the La Ola project in December 2008 its output had been restricted because officials were concerned that the power fluctuations associated with solar energy might damage the electrical grid. To address the issue Castle & Cooke installed a battery back-up system developed by Xtreme Power to smooth out the volatility of the solar energy. Completion of the battery installation, orignally scheduled for last summer, was delayed due to technical issues.
When operating at full power the La Ola project has the largest percentage of solar energy penetration of any independent island grid in the world, according to Castle & Cooke.
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.
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.
LANAI CITY – Lanai residents turned out Saturday to express strong opposition to bringing “big wind” to their island for the benefit of Oahu consumers.
Testifiers expressed concern about how a proposed wind farm by Castle & Cooke could impact the environment, cultural sites, hunting access and scenic views if it were allowed to proceed on up to 12,800 acres on the northwestern end of the island. While state and federal officials said their purpose was to gather comments on a big-picture plan for an interisland wind system, without focusing on any one specific project, Lanai residents said it was impossible to comment on the impacts of the larger plan without scrutinizing Castle & Cooke’s proposal.
“I’m very troubled by this whole concept,” said Lanai City resident Robin Kaye. “How can you have this cumulative study without looking at the specific impacts?”
The U.S. Department of Energy and the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism hosted the scoping meeting Saturday in the Lanai High and Elementary School cafeteria.
It followed similar meetings on Maui and Molokai earlier in the week.
Hawaiian Electric Co. and Castle & Cooke Resorts officials contend that Lanai residents could see some benefits ranging from lower electric rates and guaranteed employment to hunting access and water rights as part of agreements they reached Friday on pricing terms for a Lanai wind farm.
But at least some Lanai residents say the agreement isn’t fair and would turn the island into “an industrial park” to provide electricity for Oahu.
The proposed wind farm by Interisland Wind would transmit as much as 400 megawatts of electricity to Oahu via an undersea cable from wind farms on Lanai and Molokai.
Friday’s agreements were for the Lanai facilities, not those proposed for Molokai, the companies said in a joint announcement.
“Castle & Cooke and Hawaiian Electric recognize that, while the electricity will be transmitted to Oahu, the impact of construction and operation of the wind farm will be felt on Lanai, including on cultural and recreational resources, plants and wildlife, and the people of the small island community,” the announcement said. “Therefore, a community benefits package for Lanai is appropriate.”
State Sen. J. Kalani English, whose 6th Senate District includes Lanai, Molokai, East Maui and Upcountry, said the proposal by the companies is “a good starting point.”
Castle & Cooke Resorts, Lanai’s biggest employer, has proposed to erect more than 150 wind turbines on the remote northwestern end of the island and lay an undersea cable that would send the power to Oahu.
The project’s supporters say it could be a revenue-generator for the island, but opponents fear it would cut off access to important hunting grounds and have a major impact on an area rich in cultural and archaeological sites.
There’s not enough for all projects planned, proposed; viability of cloud forest a worry
By ILIMA LOOMIS, Staff Writer
WAILUKU – Building out all the developments that have already been planned or proposed on Lanai would result in more water being pumped out of the island’s wells than could be sustained, according to the county’s draft Lanai Water Use and Development Plan.
The plan also finds that as much as 28 percent of the water pumped on the island is unaccounted-for due to loss or waste in the system, and that the island’s watershed is so fragile that a loss of the Lanaihale cloud forest could reduce water levels in the island’s only viable aquifer by 50 percent.