Library from Hawaii
Representatives in the House committee on the environment voted today to gradually decrease the solar energy tax credit to 15 percent by 2018. ...The credit is currently 35 percent of the cost of each solar energy system. Gov. Neil Abercrombie says the current credit is fiscally unsustainable.
The owners of Molokai Ranch have backed out of plans to lease thousands of acres of land to a large-scale wind farm developer. The decision likely spells the end for the Molokai portion of the Big Wind project, an ambitious plan to build about 70 wind turbines on both Molokai and Lanai and bring the electricity to Oahu via undersea cables.
More than 4,000 Hawaii Electric Light Co. customers were briefly left without power at about mid-day today when a North Kohala wind farm tripped off-line. ...Another outage at Hawi Renewable Development on Jan. 5 cut electricity to more than 6,500 HELCO customers.
Abercrombie, however, denounced the Sierra Club. "The Sierra Club is saying that they want to protect people who cheat. ...people are cheating and gaming the system and preventing other people from taking advantage of what is legitimately there to be done.
Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. Terry Seelig was quick to counter Gotcher's assertion that firefighters failed to act in the best interest of the wind farm. He said the flames, toxic chemicals and unstable nature of the burning warehouse made it unsafe to use water, and deploying hand-held extinguishers was nearly impossible.
Wind farm fire investigation puts firefighters in hot water.
State senators pressed the developers of a North Shore wind farm on Tuesday about the safety of their technology in light of a major fire that destroyed their battery storage facility and sent toxic fumes into the air. ...The wind farm also experienced two previous fires that destroyed inverters after coming online in 2011.
Hawaiian Electric Co. says its interconnection facility inside the battery energy storage system warehouse at the Kahuku Wind Farm on Oahu's North Shore, which was destroyed by fire in August, will cost at least $8 million to rebuild and take about a year to complete.
First Wind spokesman Kekoa Kaluhiwa tells KITV4 the cause of the fire remains undetermined, and it's not known when project might get back online. ...First Wind has abandoned plans to add five wind turbines to a parcel of land below the current wind farm footprint in Kahuku. The decision comes after the KCA voted in May not to support the expansion.
Mark Glick, energy administrator for the state, called the initial scope "a little bit shortsighted." "When this effort, in terms of the programmatic EIS, was begun, it was originally targeted toward one segment of how we got to the 40 percent renewable energy, and it was two wind projects on two islands with a cable connecting," Glick said. "In hindsight, it's pretty easy for me to say that that was a little bit shortsighted."
Initially, energy leaders focused on wind power and an undersea cable. But now, that's no longer the case. "Based on the comments we got in the scoping period last year, we listened to those comments, we took them very seriously and basically they said you're not looking broadly enough."
Xtreme Power filed a lawsuit against Dynapower Corp., the maker of specially designed inverters that contained the defective capacitors. Vistica said Xtreme Power purchased them specifically for the Kahuku wind farm project.
Despite the fact that 93 percent or 95 percent or 99 percent of Molokai residents oppose the wind turbines, there remains an open opportunity for promoters to buy "community leaders" to spin it their way. If the community could speak with one official voice, then the auditions would stop and the opportunities for selling out would dry up.
The political and economic winds are shifting for plans to build wind farms on Lanai and Molokai and ship the power to Oahu via undersea cable. Castle & Cooke had once said it would build the entire Big Wind project on Lanai, putting about 140 giant wind turbines on thousands of acres. But Castle & Cooke owner David Murdock sold the island earlier this summer, and the 7,000 acres he has left for the wind project is too small for that many turbines. And the Molokai wind farm, which some had written off, has new life with new leadership for the company that has long wanted to develop a wind farm there. Big Wind - once envisioned as a 400-megawatt project split between the two islands - and the interisland cable system are expected to be discussed at the Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo this week in Honolulu, where hundreds of business leaders and government officials from about 20 countries will convene for discussions on renewable energy. The wind farms are taking on new urgency as Hawaiian Electric Co. moves closer to seeking proposals for ways to provide hundreds of megawatts of new power for the state. On Lanai, Murdock sold about 98 percent of the island to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison this summer. He kept the rights to develop the wind farm but he only has access to 7,000 acres of land, according to a sales agreement recently filed with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission. That's less than half the acreage projected for the full 400-megawatt project, a 2010 environmental review of the project shows. "A wind farm of up to 400-MW capacity may encompass an area of more than 15,000 acres to allow for terrain, turbine spacing, access, etc.," according to the assessment prepared for the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. Castle & Cooke currently has a contract with HECO to develop 200 mw of the Big Wind project on Lanai, which still has to be approved by state regulators. The PUC ordered the electric utility to put the other half of the Big Wind project, planned for Molokai, out for competitive bid last year after the original wind developer for Molokai, First Wind, missed a deadline to secure land for the project. Developers can now pitch projects on other islands that can reach Oahu via an undersea cable, or on Oahu itself. The process is now open to other renewable sources of energy besides wind - geothermal, for instance, or solar. But supporters of the Big Wind project have forged ahead, hopeful that the wind project will still beat out competing bids. Castle & Cooke has made no secret of its intent to bid on the extra 200 megawatts. The company was disappointed last year when the PUC didn't allow it to develop the entire project on Lanai, after negotiations with First Wind on Molokai broke down. HECO, with the support of Harry Saunders, vice president of Castle & Cooke, argued that an original agreement between the wind developers stipulated that if one of the projects fell through, than all 400 megawatts could be developed on one island. Developing the entire project on Lanai would be cheaper and reduce the risk to investors, according to studies. Castle & Cooke would not have to count on the success of the Molokai wind farm, or any other potential project, in order for the Lanai project to move forward. Carlton Ching, a spokesperson for Castle & Cooke, wouldn't reveal details of the company's plans. "What we decide is still proprietary and we have no comments on our strategy," he said. But Castle & Cooke may face other snags, too. Parts of a community benefits package negotiated by the company, HECO and local residents could also be in jeopardy. Castle & Cooke had promised benefits such as maintaining workforce levels on Lanai and providing continued access to hunting grounds. The community benefits package was an important part of attracting community support for the project, though residents remain divided on the wind farm. If Castle & Cooke can't deliver on the benefits, it could raise serious issues with the contract it has with HECO for the 200-mw wind farm - which has already been submitted to the PUC for approval. Rosegg said that the company was legally and contractually bound to deliver on the promises, but beyond this he couldn't comment on the implications if the company can't fulfill the terms. "I really couldn't speculate on what happens if this occurs or if that occurs," he said.Molokai Still Resistant But Wind Developer Moving Ahead The wind farm on Lanai has attracted opposition from local groups, including Friends of Lanai and Lanaians for Sensible Growth. But it's also progressed much more quickly than the Molokai project. In addition to a community benefits package, Castle & Cooke has conducted wind studies and identified a 5,500 acre parcel of land in the northwest portion of the island where it hopes to build the wind turbines. But on Molokai, progress has been slow. There is no negotiated benefits package because First Wind, which worked on the Molokai wind farm for about four years, wasn't able to secure land for the project, so it was premature to begin negotiating benefits, said Rosegg. And Molokai Renewables, a joint venture between Bio-Logical Capital and Pattern Energy, which stepped in as the developer in March 2011 hasn't gotten that far with the community. Molokai Ranch, which refused to negotiate with First Wind, has an agreement with Molokai Renewables to develop the wind farm on the ranch, the parties have said.
Kahuku residents are questioning whether First Wind has done enough to protect from the community from the potential of toxic smoke. Duration: 2 minutes 19 seconds
Aerial shots over the Kahuku wind farm show the warehouse that was filled with 12,000 battery packs severely damaged and releasing toxic smoke and lead into the air. ...First Wind is supposed to submit a cleanup plan to the state by the end of the day which will include samples of the air, soil and water.
Firefighters were forced to fight a burning building without water on the North Shore Wednesday, when a battery warehouse at an Oahu wind farm went up in flames. The battery warehouse caught on fire at the First Wind wind farm for the second time in two years. But unlike last year's small fire, the latest blaze shut down the wind farm's huge turbines.
The fire started about 4:45 a.m. Wednesday ...Honolulu Fire Capt. Terry Seelig said an alarm sensor showed a buildup of heat, and video cameras recorded a fire starting in the battery banks. ...still burning about 4 p.m. and emitting various chemicals in smoke, which was blowing toward the mountains and not affecting homes.
One of the island's two major wind farms tripped off-line briefly today, cutting off electricity for a wide swath of Hawai`i Electric Light Co. customers.
The pending sale of Lana'i by Castle and Cooke's David Murdock to Larry Ellison has not brought an end to the controversy that swirls around a proposed wind project. As part of the deal, Murdock retains the right to develop a 200 to 400 megawatt wind farm on thousands of acres of land on the northwest tip of the island.