First Wind in Limbo
As wind company Pattern Energy moves forward with plans to develop on Molokai, First Wind, a company that had been in discussion with the community for several years, is not giving up without a fight.
However, the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) officially denied First Wind’s request for an extension for them to pursue a land deal for a wind farm on Molokai last week. This means the company is out of the running to be involved in the efforts to build a wind farm on Molokai.
But the PUC has yet to make a decision on First Wind’s latest request: start over the state’s neighbor island project’s bidding process from scratch.
First Wind CEO Paul Gaynor sent a letter to the PUC on April 25, stating that the original 2008 agreement with the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) did not give one developer the right over the other to delegate part of the wind farm to a new developer.
Soon after First Wind missed the March 18 deadline to present a land deal and term sheet to the PUC, Castle & Cooke struck a deal with Pattern Energy to develop 200 megawatts (MW) on Molokai. Pattern has an agreement with Molokai Properties Ltd. (MPL) to lease their land on the west end, pending the project moves forward.
First Wind officials did not return multiple attempts at contact from the Dispatch.
A few days after First Wind send their request for re-bidding to the PUC, anti-wind group Friends of Lanai (FOL) sent the PUC a petition to intervene, also asking for the competitive bidding process to be reopened.
“[We want] to get access to documents we’ve been unable to see, like the original document splitting up the megawatts,” said Robin Kaye of FOL. “Why is this so secretive?”
HECO recently sent a motion to the PUC in opposition to FOL’s request, stating their petition was not filed within an appropriate time frame (over 500 days past the filing of the initial agreement). They also stated FOL has other venues which are more appropriate for them to comment.
Kaye said using other venues is irrelevant, since it is the PUC that makes the final decisions.
“We want to get the state off of its dependence on foreign oil as much as anybody else does, [we] just don’t think this is the way to do it,” he said.
In the meantime, Pattern Energy, in collaboration with development company Bio-Logical Capital, is meeting with individuals on Molokai to discuss “visions and goals” as well as concerns about the project.
`Aha Ki`ole conducted a survey on Molokai in March, asking residents whether or not they supported wind development. Ninety-three percent said were against a wind farm on the island.