Wind Energy Developer Negotiating with Molokai Ranch
First Wind project on homestead land nixed.
Wind energy company First Wind has announced it will not pursue a proposed wind project on Molokai’s Hawaiian homestead land. The company is now negotiating with Molokai Properties Ltd., also known as Molokai Ranch, to build a similar wind farm on Ranch land.
The original plan was nixed because there was not enough land area available, according to First Wind Director of External Affairs Kekoa Kaluhiwa.
Kaluhiwa said First Wind was awaiting a response from the Federal Aviation Administration as to whether the company could use land adjacent to the Ho`olehua Airport. It found out in the last month that this was not possible, and there is not enough land for the proposed wind turbines on the remaining land, owned by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
Kaluhiwa said that First Wind, which is based in Boston and maintains an office in Honolulu, was contacted “recently” by MPL about using a portion of its land for a wind energy project.
“They informed us that they would consider an offer for land proposed solely for use of a wind farm,” Kaluhiwa said. He added MPL said it would only consider this “if majority of the Molokai community supports it.”
Kaluhiwa said he was not sure whether the offer referred to a lease or sale of the land. He added that negotiations are in preliminary phases, and the community would be involved in discussions within the next two months.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Kammy Purdy, homesteader and President of the Ahupua`a o Molokai, in response to First Wind’s cancellation of the DHHL project. “We were given an economic opportunity for our homestead community.”
While Purdy supported the project, many other homesteaders did not, providing strong testimony against the proposal in community discussions over the past year. They did not want to see wind turbines mar the beauty of the land in their backyards. The proposed undersea cable to carry energy to Oahu raised many concerns, and building wind turbines in the Mo`omomi area brought even more protests. A quick drive around the island reveals numerous hand-painted signs speaking out against wind development.
As with the previously proposed project on homestead land, the power generated on Ranch land would be transported via interisland undersea cable to serve Oahu’s energy needs.
“The bulk of energy will go to Oahu, but we would like to see what other opportunities we can provide to benefit the community,” said Kaluhiwa.
First Wind had pledged $50 million toward a community effort to buy Molokai Ranch land. That campaign, organized by Molokai Community Service Council, ultimately fell through.
The company tried several times over the past few years to purchase Molokai Ranch land in its entirety, “but they said the land was not for sale,” explained Kaluhiwa.
But many community members don’t intend to give up their plan so easily.
“We plan to continue our campaign to try to buy the Ranch,” said Karen Holt executive director of MSCS.
A Long History
First Wind has been in talks with Molokai residents since 2006, when the company, then known as UPC Wind, proposed a 350 megawatt (MW) wind farm for the island. That plan, called Ikaika Wind Power, was broken into two phases.
The first phase, Ikaika I, called for 20 turbines to be built on DHHL lands in Ho`oluhua. Each turbine would sit on a 45 foot concrete foundation and measure 400 feet tall, or about 40 stories, according to former First Wind spokesperson Noe Kalipi. Each turbine would generate 2.5 MW of power, totaling about 50 MW.
Ikaika II would be constructed on land owned by the Ranch. The proposal called for 150 MW of energy generated by 80 turbines.
First Wind operates Kaheawa Wind Farm on Maui, Hawaii’s largest utility-scale operating wind energy project, which produces about 9 percent of Maui’s energy. The State of Hawaii currently has four operating wind farms.