Windmills Proposed for Homestead Land
UPC Wind takes first steps in developing wind farms on Molokai.
The discussion of energy alternatives continues to blow strong on Molokai. Last week Wednesday, representatives from UPC Wind met up with Hawaiian homesteaders in Ho`olehua to seek approval to build two meteorological towers (met-towers) on homestead lands.
The towers will record wind speed, direction, and other weather data which will ultimately help decide if a wind farm would be feasible on homestead land.
Although UPC representatives are confident that the selected areas will provide enough wind for the project, they say that the homesteaders themselves will have the most say whether or not the windmills will be built.
UPC spokeswoman Noelani Kalipi said she was excited to begin the dialogue process but did not expect an immediate decision from the homesteaders. According to Kalipi, the company wants to be a part of Molokai “for the long haul” and is dedicated to building relationships with the community.
If the community approves installation of the met-towers, UPC will erect the met-towers and gather data for 12-18 months. Pending further community approval UPC would begin the first of two phases toward building a Molokai wind farm.
The first phase consists of obtaining a general lease on uninhabited homestead land from Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) where 19 small wind turbines would be built. The farm would be capable of producing 50 megawatts of electricity which would be sold to Oahu and transported via an underwater cable.
At Wednesday’s meeting, homesteaders asked why Oahu should benefit before Molokai residents.
“The resource is from us, we have the right to have it first,” a homesteader said.
Kalipi said that building and maintaining wind farms are expensive, and that Molokai doesn’t use enough electricity (on average 2.5-6 megawatts) to generate the finances necessary for operating the wind farm.
In order to make the project financially viable, UPC has to sell the power to a larger energy consumer like Oahu, explained Wren “T’ree” Westcoatt III, who works for UPC.
Kalipi said the Molokai community could benefit from the wind farm through monthly cash rebates. She says she would also like to hear alternative ideas from the community.
Westcoatt and Kalipi both have direct connections to Molokai. Westcoatt was born and raised on the island, while Kalipi’s husband is from Molokai.
Resident Kilia Purdy said she was glad UPC Wind representatives have strong Molokai ties. “You know that they will do what is best for the island,” she said.
“Their presentation was very thorough,” Purdy said. “It’s positive for the land; it would help buy the Ranch and has other benefits for us.”
Purdy, along with others, are supporting a campaign called Buy The Ranch (BTR) which hopes to buy Molokai Ranch properties. BTR supporters say UPC’s offer to build a Molokai wind farm would provide a viable alternative to Molokai Ranch’s controversial proposed development of La`au Point.
UPC has stated that it officially supports the community’s BTR campaign. Kalipi said the company is committed to making a significant donation to the fund. In turn, the company hopes the community would eventually allow UPC to lease land to construct a larger scale wind farm.
This latter phase of UPC’s plan for Molokai includes a large, 250-350 megawatt wind farm stretching from Ho`olehua to Ilio Point, which is currently owned by Molokai Ranch.
If the BTR campaign is successful and the community agrees to a lease with UPC, access and control to all land surrounding the wind turbines would be maintained by the community.
“A lot of development plans have been brought before Molokai over the years,” said Westcoatt. “UPC’s plan is the first that doesn’t require bringing in more people or using (more) water.”
Kaheawa Wind on Maui is a 30 megawatt farm owned by UPC, and built on State Conversation Land. The farm supplies 10 percent of Maui’s energy needs.
UPC has also signed a contract with the Kauai Electric Utility Cooperative. The company’s representatives are working with Hawaiian homesteaders there toward developing a smaller wind operation.
In Kaheawa, UPC developed a nature conservation habitat on the land employing two full-time biologists. UPC representatives say the stewardship of the Kaheawa Wind property has demonstrated the company’s commitment to Hawaiian culture and preservation of the environment
“It seems like they listen to the people,” said homesteader Will “Yama” Kaholoaa Sr.
Hawaii is the most oil dependent state in the country. Studies show that the state is 78 percent and Molokai is 100 percent dependent on petroleum.
The Hawaiian Energy Company (HECO) is currently receiving seven percent of its energy from renewable sources. Gov. Linda Lingle’s “Energy for Tomorrow” plan requires Hawaii to obtain 20 percent by 2020.