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Environmental group Friends of Lana'i wants the state to require that Hawaiian Electric Co. complete a long-range statewide energy plan before being allowed to seek bids for an undersea cable developer and other large renewable projects.
"We looked at selling the turbines, but deals have fallen through, mostly because they were out of date and not in very good condition," Pace said. Instead, Apollo Energy has decided to sell them as scrap metal in China, where Pace said it would be worth the most.
Larry Helm, well known native Hawaiian veterans' advocate, said about 90 percent of Molokai's 7,000 plus residents are against the windmill construction plan, which would include windmills built on Molokai that would connect to an undersea cable bringing power to the highly populated Oahu.
Market Facing Potentially Costly, Uphill Battle
While the movement to oppose Big Wind on Molokai grows stronger and more organized, the message remains the same: Not on our ‘aina! Three members of the Hawaii Senate Committee on Energy and Environment visited Molokai yesterday to listen to the voices of the people on this controversial issue.
But the ends don't justify the means, says Henry Curtis, executive director of Life of the Land, an environmental and community action group in Honolulu, who argues that powering O'ahu should not require the industrialization of Lana'i and Moloka'i. "It [the Interisland Wind Project] was conceived in back rooms," he contends, arguing that Big Wind is, in effect, blowing smoke clouding the bigger picture and that favorability toward wind power is indicative of a much bigger issue.
The project also will need special management area and county special use permits. There will be an additional environmental review when the incidental take and endangered species mitigation plans are written. The area is home to four endangered animals, the Hawaiian petrel, Hawaiian hoary bat, nene and Blackburn's sphinx moth; and several rare native plants.
The 400 megawatt Big Wind project may not be just a wind project anymore. The Hawaii State Energy Office is expanding the scope of its environmental assessment to include solar and geothermal energy sources in Maui County.
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.
Hermina Morita, the PUC chairwoman, said: "Part of the PUC's role in clean energy development in Hawaii is to ensure an open and fair process. . . . However, (HECO and Castle & Cooke's) proposed assignment of 200 megawatts to Molokai Ranch goes beyond the scope of the PUC's waiver from the original competitive bid process."
The actual energy output of a wind project is often substantially less than its stated capacity. For example, the Kawailoa wind project would produce about 25 percent of its 70-megawatt capacity over the course of a year, according to an analysis of data provided by First Wind in its EIS.
Henry Curtis of Life of the Land said customers should not be forced to finance the studies, because past rulings by the PUC clearly ordered HECO to evaluate alternatives to the massive wind-power project.
Opposition to the project was intensified because Molokai Ranch, which has a history of tension with the community, was supporting Pattern Energy. "Personally, I don't think this project will go forward if Molokai Ranch has any part of it," Karen Holt, executive director of the Molokai Community Service Council, told PBN.
The Public Utilities Commission has approved a power purchase agreement that will allow Sempra Generation to begin selling wind-generated power to Maui Electric Co. perhaps as soon as early 2013. MECO will initially pay 20 cents per kilowatt hour.
"It is time for open discussion and debate in the community on the benefits and the overall question of whether expenses associated with the Big Wind project are reasonable," McLeod wrote. "We ask guidance from the PUC on where you would like to see this discussion occur." The mayor's office followed up the three-page letter with a request on June 6 to intervene in a PUC case.
First Wind officials said they were not able to find a site to locate a proposed 200-megawatt wind farm on Molokai, because the island's major landowner, Molokai Ranch, refused to negotiate with them.
The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission has denied a petition from the nonprofit Friends of Lanai that sought to intervene in the proceedings involving the Big Wind project.
"Critical decisions about the size, scope, location and nature of the wind farms are being made in dockets opened before the Public Utilities Commission based upon documents that are hidden, by protective orders, from nonparties before any Environmental Impact Statement is prepared in violation of the law."
As Pattern Energy begins taking action on Molokai to develop a wind farm, two groups are denouncing the Big Wind project, and calling for the neighbor island bidding process to start from scratch.
Removing turbines from the inactive Kamaoa wind farm would cost an estimated $1 million. Decommissioning plans are becoming common practice for new wind farms, but there is no state statute mandating what must be done after the project is no longer in use.