Hawaiian Electric Co. and Castle & Cooke are asking the Public Utilities Commission to reconsider last week’s ruling that shook up the 400 megawatt Big Wind project and raised questions about how it would proceed.
The petition was filed by Hawaiian Electric, with the support of Castle & Cooke, according to PUC documents dated Tuesday.
The PUC ruling effectively stymied a wind farm deal between Molokai Ranch and Pattern Energy from moving forward, by denying that Castle & Cooke could cede half of its “wind allocation” to Pattern Energy for a wind farm. The details of the increasingly complex deal, which aims to bring energy from large wind farms on Lanai and Molokai to Oahu, can be found here.
Hawaiian Electric is asking that the PUC either allow Castle & Cooke to develop the entire 400 mw wind farm on Lanai, or that commissioners reconsider their ruling and allow Castle & Cooke to cede 200 mw to Pattern Energy for the wind farm on Molokai.
Molokai Ranch announced Pattern Energy as its preferred wind developer several months ago. It has since teamed with Biological Capital, and organized under the name Molokai Renewables.
Last week’s PUC ruling also required Hawaiian Electric to issue a new RFP for at least 200 mw of renewable energy, or what was previously the Molokai portion of the project. The new RFP is to be open to a wide range of renewable energy sources, and projects could be sited on any island that can reach Oahu via an undersea cable, or on Oahu itself.
Hawaiian Electric supports issuing the new RFP, but requested that it be considered in addition to the 400 mw wind farms, as opposed to being a replacement for half of the project.
If the PUC’s ruling stands, then Hawaiian Electric will struggle to meet its renewable energy benchmarks mandated by the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, according to arguments made by the utility in its petition to the PUC. The utility could be penalized $20 per megawatt hour if it fails to show a good faith effort in meeting its renewable energy goals.
Lynne Unemori, vice president of corporate relations for the utility, said that even if the PUC approves the petition, the Big Wind deal still faced a number of hurdles before it could proceed.
“We’ve stated all along that the go or no go [for the Big Wind project] is still a couple of years off,” said Unemori, noting the pending environmental review and permitting process. A power purchase agreement between the utility and wind developers would also have to be approved by the PUC.
Hermina Morita, chair of the PUC, said that she was “not in any position to comment” on Hawaiian Electric’s petition. Castle & Cooke did not immediately return a call for comment.
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