Monday, May 2, 2011

First Wind, Rejected at Every Turn, Keeps Trying

(Evening Update: Please visit our sister blog, Citizens Helping Officials Respond to Emergencies (CHORE), for our instant analysis of what was missing in communications to Oahu residents during the hours-long blackout late today.)

First Wind, the Boston-based energy company, must be wondering if it has lost its touch. After being hailed for its wind projects on Maui and a new one on Oahu’s North Shore, First Wind is getting nowhere with its bid to be a player in the Big Wind inter-island energy project.

The Public Utilities Commission has rejected First Wind’s request for an extension to secure land for a 200-megawatt wind farm either on Molokai or Maui. The company’s efforts to cut a deal with Molokai Ranch were spurned, and the ranch has turned to Pattern Energy of San Francisco for that island’s share of the project.

The PUC said First Wind didn’t have proper standing to file an extension request so it could find the land it needs. Only parties to the Commission’s docket may do so, the PUC’s denial letter said, and Hawaiian Electric Company, which is a party, refused First Wind’s request to file the extension on its behalf.

That makes three rejections for First Wind – by Molokai Ranch, the HECO and now the PUC. Unknow now is whether the PUC will add another by rejecting the company’s protest of Castle & Cooke’s assignment of 200 MW of allotted wind energy potential from Lanai to Molokai and Pattern Energy.

Soap Opera-ishness

We had to make up that word to capture the craziness that the Big Wind project has become. Also protesting the C&C “assignment” is the Friends of Lanai group, which noted last week that Pattern Energy “is not a party to any PUC Docket, nor party to any agreement with any public agency in Hawaii. Despite claims to the contrary, FOL believes HECO and C&C have no right – and no authority – to arbitrarily ‘select’ a new developer.”

One possible outcome of all this would be the PUC’s agreement with First Wind and FOL that C&C can’t just up and “assign” 200 phantom MWs to Pattern, which showed up late in the game at Molokai Ranch’s invitation.

Another possible outcome would be for all of Big Wind’s 400 MWs to be built on Lanai, an option that surely would trigger the mother of all protests by the FOL group and others.

It’s not for nothing that we’ve called this whole affair a soap opera.

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