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Updated: Molokai Ranch Says No to Wind Project

Molokai Ranch announced it has called off a deal to lease thousands of acres to wind developer Molokai Renewables. The decision likely means the end to a large-scale wind project on Molokai, which would have supplied electricity to Oahu via an undersea transmission cable.

“After much consideration and discussions with Molokai Renewables, we made the decision not to renew the agreement for the proposed wind farm project on Molokai Ranch lands at this time,” said Clay Rumbaoa, Molokai Ranch CEO, in a statement last week.

Molokai Renewables is a joint venture between California-based Pattern Energy and environmental investment company Bio-Logical Capital, based in Colorado. Two years ago, the company began discussions with Molokai Ranch and the community to lease 11,000 acres of Ranch land on west Molokai to build 70 400-foot-tall wind turbines.

“While we are disappointed with Molokai Properties’ decision not to move forward with our proposed wind farm project on Molokai Ranch lands, we respect their decision,” said Molokai Renewables’ Guy Kaulukukui in a statement. “Although we understand some people still opposed this project, it has been gratifying to see how many residents were open to the idea of creating a sustainable energy source, and to receiving the benefits that would flow to local residents from this project. Molokai Renewables is deeply grateful to the residents of Molokai who provided us with many excellent ideas on how to best approach establishing a clean, green wind farm on the island. We shall miss working with them.”

Kanohowailuku Helm, president of I Aloha Molokai (IAM), a group that opposes the industrial wind project and undersea cable, said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the news.

“This doesn’t mean that we’re going to lay off on the pressure,” he said. “What we really got to watch for is the cable coming to Molokai.”

With the proposed undersea cable still a concern, Helm added that IAM also stands in support of Lanai residents who oppose industrial wind on their island, a proposal that’s still on the table.

But Helm is hopeful for Molokai’s sustainable future.

“This opens up the opportunity to look at other renewable options for Molokai,” he said.

Kaulukukui said his company felt Molokai residents could have benefitted from “the kind of sustainable wind project we were proposing – one with unique benefits commitments to restore and conserve the land, preserve Molokai’s rich culture and way of life, and enhance the ocean resources and local food supply that Molokai depends on.”

Pattern Energy and Bio-Logical Capital will continue to pursue other sustainable energy projects in Hawaii, according to Molokai Renewables’ statement.

The project’s failure marks the second company that has unsuccessfully attempted to develop a wind farm on the island. In 2011, wind developer First Wind backed out of their plans for Molokai after several years of negotiations.

While the Molokai wind farm may not move forward, the state’s proposal to generate 200 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy for Oahu still will. Hawaiian Electric Company is expected to release a long-awaited request for proposals (RFP) mid-year for a 200 MW project, according to HECO spokesperson Peter Rosegg. Bidders responding to the RFP can propose projects located on Oahu, on a neighbor island, an undersea cable system bid, or a bid for a neighbor island project combined with the transmission cable. Energy could be generated by renewable sources such as wind, solar or any combination, said Rosegg. Molokai Renewables had expressed their intentions to submit a bid for the Molokai wind farm.

Rosegg had no comment on how the withdrawal of Molokai Renewables’ project would affect the bidding process, but stressed that the RFP never specifically called for a project on Molokai. The energy generated by any proposed project would produce about 10 percent of Oahu’s current annual electricity usage.

The project is part of the state’s so-called Big Wind initiative, which seeks to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and achieve the goal of 70 percent clean energy by 2030.

In the meantime, Rumbaoa said Molokai Ranch plans to concentrate on agriculture and restoring infrastructure.

“Our focus is currently on ensuring the success of our newly re-launched ranching operations and our efforts to re-open existing facilities, such as the Maunaloa Lodge, in an effort to create opportunities for the island,” he said. “We have enjoyed working with Molokai Renewables and appreciated their commitment to smart and sustainable wind projects.”


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