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PUC: HECO must seek new energy bids

Molokai wind project on hold.

To read the updated version of this story published on TheMolokaiDispatch.com on July 17, click here.

The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) ordered on Thursday that Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) restart the bidding process for a 200 megawatt (MW) wind farm proposed for Molokai.

This means wind company Pattern Energy, that has been in discussions with the community and land owner Molokai Ranch, may re-enter the bidding process for the project, along with any other company that wishes to propose a similar project.

The decision gives HECO 90 days to submit a new request for proposals (RFP) to recoup the 200 MW. Bidders could propose projects of any renewable energy types – such as wind, solar or geothermal – on any Hawaiian island, not just Molokai.

To read the PUC’s press release, click here.

“I think the people on Molokai should be dancing in the street,” said Maui County Energy Commissioner Doug McLeod.

He said there is “no reason that anyone has to propose anything on Molokai now.”

“If there is not a proposal out of Molokai in response to the RFP, I would expect that would close the window on connecting to the cable,” he said.

Molokai anti-wind group I Aloha Molokai (IAM) organizer Kanoho Helm, however, isn’t dancing just yet. Pattern Energy could still put in a new bid for a 200-MW wind farm, and McLeod estimated HECO’s RFP will give “months, not weeks” for new bidders to come forward.

“[The decision] goes both ways,” Helm said. “It opens things up to … the opportunity for some of these companies to maybe go to Maui, maybe put the other 200 [MW] on Lanai, or maybe come over here and propose to work with the Ranch and work with the community again. Everything is in limbo right now.”

Representatives from Pattern Energy and Bio-Logical Capital, which joined Pattern to form Molokai Renewables and pursue the wind farm on Molokai, did not immediately return requests for comment Friday morning.

In 2008, PUC approved Castle & Cooke to build a 400-MW wind farm on Lanai, later splitting that amount with Molokai. When original bidder First Wind missed the deadline to develop Molokai’s 200 MW project, Castle & Cooke assigned the portion to Pattern Energy.

In a press release yesterday, the PUC determined its original agreement “neither allowed for such an assignment nor contemplated Castle & Cooke ever building a wind project on Molokai.”

Maui County and Life of the Land, a Hawaiian-based environmental and community action group, were recently approved by the PUC as interveners in the case. McLeod said the county wanted to intervene because Mayor Alan Arakawa felt that neither project on Molokai and Lanai had “adequate community benefits.” Interveners can be accepted by the PUC in controversial cases to offer more information to the process.

“We got involved because there was a genuine level of distrust in the community about what was happening,” he said.

If anyone is interested in community benefits, he said, they should come forward now.

“We’ve understood that people really were opposed to the old proposal, the old idea,” he said. “If there are people on Molokai who want a connection with an interisland cable, [the new bidding process] will be their last chance to speak up.”


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