MOLOKAI WINDMILL PROJECT:  Good News!

 Wind Turbine Deal on Molokai Apparently Dead 

On February 7th, 2013, the Molokai Ranch (MPL) decided not to renew their land lease agreement with Molokai Renewables, the joint venture between Pattern Energy and Bio-Logical Capital that was planning on constructing the 200 megawatt wind farm on Molokai.  The welcome news was announced by Clay Rumbaoa, CEO of MPL, in a statement to the news site Civil Beat and widely picked up by other news sources:  (http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2013/02/07/18267-molokai-big-wind-deal-falls-apart/). 

This preceded the long-awaited request for proposals that the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) is expected to release by mid-year for construction of a wind farm or other forms of renewable energy.  The Big Wind initiative also envisioned building a 200 megawatt project  of 70 giant wind turbines  (each about 450 ft high) on Lanai.  The future and size of the Lanai proposal is still in question.

The exact reason MPL decided not to renew the lease with Molokai Renewables has not been made public but Rumbaoa has simply said they will focus on their ranching operations and efforts to reopen the Maunaloa Lodge. 

The wind turbine project had been vigorously opposed by both the WMA Board and its Windmill Committee and by I Aloha Molokai, a community group with which WMA had allied itself for the joint fight.  I Aloha Molokai’s president Konohowailuku Helm has expressed residual concern about the possibility that the billion dollar plus undersea cable that was to have linked Molokai and Lanai to Oahu might still be built.  Its purpose was to transfer virtually all of the energy produced on Molokai and Lanai to Oahu, if the project had gone forward.  The undersea cable funding was already allocated by the state legislature, and sourced to Hawaiian rate payers who will pay a premium on their already high electricity rates if the cable is built.

Many have speculated that if the cable were to be built, it would come ashore on a site made available by the state of Hawaii, as permitted by the creation of the Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC).  Passed two years ago in the Hawaiian legislature, the PLDC is widely seen as giving too much fiat to the governor to allot public lands to private companies for projects without public approval.  This law now is in trouble in the state legislature and on February 14th the Hawaiian House of Representatives unanimously voted to repeal the law.  House bill 1133, which would repeal the PLDC, now goes to the Senate, where its passage seems likely. 

The WMA is gratified by the decision of MPL not to renew the lease for the ill-conceived project, which would have changed the face of the West End forever.  Assuming the decision is a final one, it opens up much brighter prospects for our collective future and will allow MPL and the community to develop mutually beneficial plans going forward.  This represents an important opportunity for all of us.

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