Friends of Lanai demand competitive bidding process be reopened for ‘Big Wind’

HONOLULU—Friends of Lāna‘i (FOL) petitioned Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to reopen the competitive bidding process for the multi-island “Big Wind” project yesterday.

“The PUC has already granted a waiver from their rules for competitive bidding, over a stinging
dissent from former Commissioner Leslie Kondo, said Isaac Hall, FOL’s attorney. “As a condition of that waiver, two named parties needed to submit completed term sheets by March 18, 2011. Since only one party timely complied, FOL believes that the waiver is no longer valid, and the competitive bidding process
needs to start over.

“Big Wind” is the State’s proposal to build industrial power plants on rural Lāna‘i and Moloka`i capable of producing 400 MW of intermittent wind power. FOL said the 170 turbines would produce at best 12 percent of O`ahu’s electrical needs, while consuming, and irreparably altering, significant amounts of land on both islands (25 percent of Lāna‘i, should all 400 MW be sited there).

The original agreement between Hawaiian Electric (HECO), Castle and Cooke Resorts (C&C) for Lāna‘i, and First Wind Hawai`i (FWH) for Moloka`i, called for each of the two wind developers to produce 200 MW, but allowed for one to produce up to 350 MW should the other party fail to perform. Given FWH’s inability to secure land for its project, FOL considers the agreement null and void, despite HECO and C&C offering to share some of C&C’s portion with a new developer, Pattern Energy.

Pattern Energy is not a party to any PUC Docket, nor party to any agreement with any public agency in Hawai`i. Despite claims to the contrary, FOL believes HECO and C&C have no right and and no authority to arbitrarily “select” a new developer.

“The entire process has been shrouded in secrecy,” said FOL spokesman Robin Kaye in a statement. “There has been no public discussion of costs, no responsible consideration of other means to meet the non-binding goals of the State’s renewable portfolio standards, and no clarity on where the proposed undersea cable might surface on O`ahu. The process hasn’t even determined from which islands the wind resources would be harvested. The rush to Big Wind should stop here and now.”

First Wind also filed a letter with the PUC this week requesting similar relief.

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