Sen. Mike Gabbard and at least two other legislators will visit Molokai Nov. 2 to discuss the so-called “Big Wind” project with local residents, the senator confirmed today.
Gabbard, who chairs the Senate Energy/Environment Committee, is leading the visit with Sen. Kalani English and Rep. Denny Coffman. Rep. Mele Carroll may also attend.
The legislators are finalizing plans to hold listening sessions with various groups on the island, including people who might be for or against industrial wind farms on Molokai and Lanai, between 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. They plan to visit Lanai Nov. 3.
Residents interested in scheduling a session may call Gabbard’s office at 808-586-6830.
The news of the lawmakers’ visit came as Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) confirmed it submitted today a new draft request for proposals (RFP) to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The RFP seeks to recoup 200 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy that developer Pattern Energy previously proposed via an industrial wind farm on Molokai. The energy would be transferred to Oahu via undersea cable.
In July, the PUC found that developer Castle & Cooke – who had negotiated a 400-MW wind farm on Lanai – had wrongly assigned 200 MW of that project to Pattern, and ordered the redrafting.
The new draft RFP asks for projects that could be in operation no later than Dec. 31, 2018. It also broadens the project’s potential, allowing developers to propose at least 200 MW of any kind of “commercially viable resource” of renewable energy on any island that could “reasonably reach Oahu” via undersea cable, said HECO spokesman Peter Rosegg.
“It’s gotta be something that’s in operation somewhere that we can look at,” Rosegg said. “We can’t look at research and development projects, or ‘maybe this will work’ projects.”
Developers’ proposals for windmills on Molokai and Lanai, dubbed “Big Wind,” have drawn staunch resistance from groups like Friends of Lanai and I Aloha Molokai. Community desires to directly address legislators prompted their visits, Gabbard said.
“We’ve heard from many vocal opponents and supporters of the projects,” he told The Dispatch. “So instead of having [one] formal hearing, I thought it would be better to have informal hearings and separate the pros and the cons.”
In addition to the meetings, Gabbard said he hopes to “talk to people in their garages and down at the market, not just in a formal kind of setting.”
“This really and truly is a listening event,” he said. “We’re not trying to go in there and try to shove anything down anyone’s throat. We just really wanna get a sense from people who live there.”