POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Apr 12, 2011
San Francisco-based Pattern Energy Group has moved a step closer to realizing its plan to build a 200-megawatt wind farm on Molokai.
Last month, Molokai Ranch announced it had selected Pattern Energy as the company it would work with to pursue the planned wind farm. Then on Saturday, Castle & Cooke issued a statement with Pattern Energy saying the two companies would cooperate on the project.
More specifically, Castle & Cooke agreed to transfer half of its 400-megawatt wind energy allocation to Pattern Energy for the Molokai project.
The agreement would allow Pattern Energy to develop up to 200 megawatts of wind power on Molokai in tandem with 200 megawatts Castle & Cooke is proposing for Lanai. Under the plan, wind energy from both projects would be transmitted to Oahu via an undersea cable.
Pattern Energy, which develops energy generation projects as well as transmission systems globally, also has consulted with Hawaii state officials on the development of the proposed undersea cable.
Castle & Cooke initially received approval from the Public Utilities Commission in 2008 to develop a full 400 megawatts of wind power on Lanai alone. The agreement was later amended to split the 400 megawatts evenly between Lanai and Molokai. Under that deal, Castle & Cooke was to develop 200 megawatts on Lanai with Boston-based First Wind LLC pursuing 200 megawatts on Molokai.
However, First Wind was unable to reach an agreement with landowner Molokai Ranch on a price for land for the project. First Wind also missed a deadline set by the Public Utilities Commission to advance its proposal. That opened the door for Pattern Energy to pursue the Molokai part of the so-called "Big Wind" project.
Molokai Ranch began talks with Patten Energy late last year and said it has been pleased with the switch from First Wind.
"Pattern Energy is a financially strong company … keen to engage the community on this potential project and extremely sensitive to land issues and community needs," Molokai Ranch CEO Peter Nicholas said in an email.
Castle & Cooke said its agreement would allow it to allocate to Pattern Energy a part of the authority it received in 2008 to develop 400 megawatts of wind energy and sell it to Hawaiian Electric Co.
"Ultimately our goal is to find a solution that serves the best long-term interests of all of the residents of the state of Hawaii and helps the state achieve its clean energy goals," said Harry Saunders, president of Castle & Cooke Hawaii. "We are very pleased that we will be able to work with one of the leading wind energy producers in the world to help reduce Hawaii's dependence on foreign oil."
HECO also said it supports Pattern Energy's entry into Big Wind.
"Diversifying the wind energy locations for this project has real benefits and is the right thing to do," said Robbie Alm, HECO executive vice president. "We hope there is a way to meet the needs and concerns of the Molokai community so that this option makes sense to them as well."