Monday, April 11, 2011

Yet Another ‘Big Wind’ Plan Switcheroo: C&C ‘Allocates’ 200 Phantom Lanai Megawatts to Molokai for Farm

One really does get the feeling the proverbial powers that be are hell-bent on getting Big Wind built, no matter what and no matter how many hoops they have to jump through to get there.

Today’s news is that Castle & Cooke, which once upon a time had been granted the opportunity in a paper deal with Hawaiian Electric Company to develop 400 megawatts of wind energy on Lanai, has “allocated” 200 of them to Molokai.

That seems like a stretch, since there was never any certainty 400 or 200 megawatts of wind energy would ever be built on Lanai. The opposition of local residents and the considerable impact a huge wind farm would have on the island (it would cover a quarter of the land) make the outcome of any such plans problematic at this point.

But since everything’s on paper so far, allocating 200 MW of Lanai wind energy to Molokai seems easy enough, even if keeping the players straight takes some doing.

Castle & Cooke’s Molokai megawatts are now apparently intended for Pattern Energy of California, which stepped in after developer First Wind was unable to secure an agreement with Molokai Ranch to build a 200-MW farm there.

First Wind missed a deadline to seal up the land and has asked the Public Utilities Commission for an extension. In the meantime, the ranch said it would work with Pattern Energy to fulfill Molokai’s portion of the Big Wind plan.

And then it was revealed on Friday that Governor Abercrombie was threatening to seize 10,000 acres of Molokai Ranch land through eminent domain if the ranch didn’t play nice in the Big Wind project.

All this frenetic maneuvering makes you wonder why the Big Wind players are prepared to do just about anything to be sure the plan actually is realized – seize thousands of acres of ranch land, “allocate” megawatts from one island to another, whatever.

Is it because it’s Big Wind or nothing – that all the State’s energy eggs are in the Big Wind basket? And where Molokai and Lanai residents fit in all of this is still anybody’s guess. Will it matter that they’re overwhelmingly opposed?

Come back tomorrow for a new twist, because at this pace, there’s sure to be one.

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