The Public Utilities Commission has allowed Maui County and the organization Life of the Land to become intervenors in Hawaiian Electric Co.’s proposal to charge customers for a $4 million study on “Big Wind.”
Henry Curtis of Life of the Land said customers should not be forced to finance the studies, because past rulings by the PUC clearly ordered HECO to evaluate alternatives to the massive wind-power project. The commission’s decision and order, which was signed Wednesday, said HECO’s review of the project should have also evaluated alternatives such as expanding residential or large-scale photovoltaic systems, biomass, biofuel and concentrated solar energy.
But although they granted the interventions, the commission also cautioned Life of the Land and the county that their involvement would be limited to the issues currently on the table.
“The commission will preclude any effort by them to unreasonably broaden the issues,” the decision stated.
It then inserted a curious and unusual note that the commissioners said they expect the intervenors “will comply with the commission’s rules and orders.”
County Energy Coordinator Doug McLeod said the language was “interesting,” but he believes there will be some latitude “in what we can legitimately discuss.”
The county’s principal concern from the start, he said, has been “the lack of community benefits from Big Wind.”
Wind energy is cited among the green alternatives to fossil fuel, but environmental and community groups are irritated about the handling of a massive project to transmit energy to Oahu from windmills on Lanai and Molokai. They should be provided more access to preliminary work on the plan by state agencies and Hawaiian Electric Co., and hold project members to promises of full access and participation at future venues.
HECO is seeking a “power purchase agreement” from the Public Utilities Commission to recover $4 million from ratepayers in costs for studies associated with the Big Wind, or Interisland Wind, project. The PUC has endorsed the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, which mandates that 40 percent of the state’s energy come from renewable sources by 2030, so the studies are consistent with the state’s goals. The path to getting there, though, has the potential to keep lay people in the dark until it emerges as a fait accompli.
Even Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa is complaining that “no one can tell us where the cable will run, its overall cost or how it would interconnect with the grids on the islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai.… We need a clear, complete, accurate, detailed analysis for the cable system before we agree to finance it on the backs of the ratepayers.”
The acronym IAM represents “I Aloha Molokai,” a newly formed working group comprised of Molokai residents opposed to the proposal to develop a 200 megawatt industrial scale wind power plant to serve the energy needs of Oahu. IAM’s mission is to share information, as well as educate the general public to the potential impacts of the project. This is a grassroots effort to raise awareness and provide balance as the developer and proponents of the project move forward in their attempt to persuade the island community to support the project.
IAM is fortunate and pleased to announce that on June 2 at 6 p.m. at the Kulana `Oiwi Halau, Robin Kaye from Friends of Lanai (FOL) will be sharing the “Lanai Wind Fall Out” video and their experience with the Big Wind and undersea cable project. IAM invites the public to join us to talk story and learn how others are proactively engaged in mitigating efforts to challenge the Big Wind and Undersea Cable project.
Numerous testimonies, letters printed in the local paper and a recent voting survey reveal major concerns and opposition to the proposed project. IAM stands firm on the position that the cultural, social, economic and environmental impacts far outweigh the benefits and opportunities of the project. “NO DEAL” is worth sacrificing our integrity and island for.
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.