Pattern Energy Moves on Molokai

Sunday, April 10, 2011 By Megan Stephenson

Wind Company makes deal with Castle & Cooke, Molokai Ranch.

The winds are changing. First Wind is out, Pattern Energy is in.

Over the past few weeks, officials at wind companies First Wind and Pattern Energy, Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO) and Molokai Properties Ltd. (MPL) have been scrambling to keep the Molokai portion of the interisland wind project afloat.

The state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) gave HECO a deadline to complete a preliminary agreement with its two wind developers: First Wind for Molokai, and Castle & Cooke on Lanai. Castle & Cooke held up its end of the deal by March 18; First Wind, due to lack of a land agreement on the island, has announced it will not be pursuing a wind project on Molokai.

The original 2008 agreement between HECO, First Wind and Castle & Cooke allows each company to build a 200 megawatt (MW) wind farm on Lanai and Molokai, respectively, as a part of the state’s renewable energy program. The agreement also states that one wind developer can complete a larger project encompassing both islands should the other developer fall through.

Thanks to this option, Castle & Cooke and Pattern Energy recently announced they have reached a deal that will allow Pattern to develop on Molokai as a part of Castle & Cooke’s 400 megawatt (MW) wind farm.

The same day as this announcement, First Wind released a statement to the Dispatch explaining they were no longer pursuing a wind project on Molokai, but thanked the community for its “interest throughout our effort.”

Talks with First Wind stalled last summer when the Federal Aviation Administration denied the company use of Hawaiian homestead land near the airport. First Wind’s recent statement said the company had attempted to purchase land from MPL six times.

Ranch Partnership
In the meantime, MPL has been holding discussions with San Francisco-based energy group Pattern Energy to lease land for a windmill on west Molokai for several months. The two businesses reached an agreement in late March.

David Parquet, director of solar, transmission and fossil development for Pattern, said the agreement is on par with what was discussed at a set of community meetings in late February – Pattern will lease 11,000 acres of MPL land for a wind farm.

“We have lots of relationships with the folks on Molokai,” Parquet said. “If we’re successful in putting a wind project [on Molokai] it is only because we have successfully pleased the community.”

Peter Nicholas, CEO of MPL, also cautioned this project must have community approval before it continues.

“This is just a first step in what may become [a wind farm] and is still subject to what the community wants,” Nicholas said.

Parquet added Pattern will return to Molokai by the end of April for more community discussion on their part in the interisland wind project.

“If Pattern is part of solution for the energy situation in Hawaii, those ideas will be incorporated into a community benefits program,” he said of the upcoming meetings.

The power purchase agreements between Castle & Cooke, Pattern Energy and HECO will need to be approved by the PUC before continuing. The interisland wind project is still subject to the federal and state-run programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS), currently being conducted.