About the Big Wind Project

Google Earth rendering of turbines on Lana`i

  • Hawaii depends on fossil fuels to meet over 90% of its energy needs.  Electricity accounts for 30% of that usage; the balance is primarily for transportation.
  • The State’s goal, as stated in the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative,  is that 70% of Hawaii’s energy needs come from renewable sources by 2030: http://www.hawaiicleanenergyinitiative.org/
  • Castle & Cooke proposed to build a 400 MW wind power plant on Lana’i and sell all the power to Hawaiian Electric (HECO) for use solely on O’ahu. The State of Hawaii proposed to build an undersea cable to transmit all the wind energy to O’ahu. (Oahu’s current electricity consumption is approximately 1400 MW; Lana’i’s is about 4.5 MW.)
  • Shortly after this was announced, First Wind Hawaii (FWH) entered the agreement, resulting in an arrangement that had FWH producing 200 MW on Moloka’i, while C&C would produce 200 MW on Lana’i.
  • Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT) has contracted with a Mainland firm (AECOM) to undertake the Programmatic EIS. http://www.hirep-wind.com/ This is expected to be completed by summer of 2012, and then will be followed by several project Environmental Impact Statements (EISs, Castle & Cooke for Lāna‘i, HECO for Oahu, cable developer for the undersea cable, etc.).
  • Neither the State of Hawaii, with a current deficit that exceeds the projected cost of the undersea cable, nor HECO, with a credit rating just one step above junk bond status, can afford to build the cable.  As a result, the State is hoping to find a cable developer who would build and lay the cable, but pass on all costs to ratepayers through increased rates, rate surcharges and rate adjustments.  A recent report estimates that cost to be between $3.58 and $5.13 per month per household for HECO ratepayers.
  • Recently, FWH was unable to secure the necessary land on Moloka’i, so a new agreement was created whereby C&C would still be responsible for 200 MW on Lana’i, but a new player, Pattern Energy, would be developing 200 MW on Moloka’i.
  • In the summer of 2011, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) ruled that HECO and C&C had no authority to transfer 200 mw of wind-generating power to Pattern Energy for it’s proposed industrial wind power plant on Moloka’i. The PUC required HECO to re-open the bidding for 200 “or more” megawatts of renewable energy from “any” island that could reasonably provide that energy to/on O’ahu.
  • Three important updates were provided by DBEDT at a July, 2011 Democratic Party of Hawaii’s Environmental Caucus Panel Meeting. First, that as a result of overwhelming public outrage regarding DBEDT’s decision to limit their examination of alternatives to Big Wind or No Big Wind, they were now going to expand their scope to include other renewable energy sources. Second, that decision would require additional scoping meetings (December, 2011) and a push-back of the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement’s (PEIS) release into the summer of 2012. And third, in response to a question, admitted that the recent comments from the Governor and his administration regarding the bundling of broadband with Big Wind’s undersea cable was not part of the scope of the Programmatic EIS.

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