HECO Agrees to Buy Energy from First Wind’s Molokai Wind Farms

March 17, 2009, 4:26 PM HST · Updated January 7, 4:29 PM
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The governor joined officials with Castle & Cooke, First Wind Hawaii and Hawaiian Electric Company today in announcing an agreement that could lead to the construction of large wind farms on both Lanai and Molokai. The farms would feed into an inter-island cable system currently being discussed with plans to provide the clean energy via an undersea cable to Oahu.

Governor Linda Lingle (left) during a 2008 visit to the Kaheawa Windfarm on Maui. File photo by Wendy Osher.

Under the agreement, HECO will negotiate long term contracts to purchase a total of 400 MW of wind energy in the state–half of it from Fist Wind and Castle & Cooke on Molokai for Oahu’s energy grid. First Wind started collecting wind data and conducting avian studies at the proposed site last year, and has plans to begin construction in 2012.

In making the announcement today, Governor Linda Lingle said the agreement will help the state meet its goal of increasing energy independence by speeding up the addition of a large increment of clean energy onto the Oahu Grid.

“It shows that we are making real progress toward our clean energy goals by working together in the best interests of Hawai`i,” said Lingle.

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Under the energy agreement, Hawaiian Electric committed to increasing renewable energy statewide by 1,100 megawatts by 2030. A major piece of this objective included 400 megawatts of  Big Wind added to O`ahu’s grid from Lana`i and/or Moloka`i by way of an undersea cable developed with the assistance of the State of Hawai`i.  The agreement defines how the parties can move forward with the plan.

Castle & Cooke earlier announced plans to develop a 400 megawatt (MW) wind farm on Lana`i. First Wind Hawai`i, which built and operates the Kaheawa Wind Farm on Maui, has proposed a 300 to 400 MW wind farm on Moloka`i.

Through this agreement, both wind farm developers have concurred to smaller initial projects, each up to 200 MW. The agreement clears the way for both projects to move ahead to negotiate contracts to sell their energy to Hawaiian Electric Company on O`ahu.

The contracts will require approval from the Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission.

Both wind project developers will cooperate with Hawaiian Electric to research, promote and coordinate the integration of the wind projects into the O`ahu electric grid.

Both wind projects depend on the ability to transmit the electric power to O`ahu from Lana`i and/or Moloka`i. Thus, the developers will assist the state in planning the undersea cable and in planning needed interconnection facilities by Hawaiian Electric.

“We are all in agreement that time is of the essence if we are going to increase our energy security and protect our economy from continued excessive dependence on imported fossil fuel,” said Hawai`i Energy Administrator Ted Peck. “Thus, all parties and the state have agreed to meet regularly to review progress on the respective wind farm projects, the inter-island cable and the O`ahu interconnection lines.”

“At First Wind Hawai`i, we welcome this agreement as a way to focus our energies on moving forward with another major project to complement our very successful Kaheawa Wind Farm and other projects we are now developing for Maui, O`ahu and Kaua`i. This enables us to bring economies of scale to our wind development efforts as a major provider of clean, renewable energy for Hawai`i,” said Paul Gaynor, president and CEO of First Wind Hawai`i.

“Lana`i already is the site of the largest photovoltaic farm in the state and this project will add significantly to the island’s clean energy contributions for Hawai`i,” said Harry Saunders, president of Castle & Cooke Hawai`i.  “This agreement provides some certainty and assurances for us to continue to advance our wind farm proposal to harness Lanai’s wind resources.  This will result in the creation of green jobs and economic opportunities for Lana`i, while protecting its environment and its special sense of place for residents and visitors.”

(Posted by Wendy OSHER © 2009; information provided by the Office of the Governor and First Wind)

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