IAM regrets to announce the cancellation of our 3rd Alternative Energy Festival, scheduled for January 14. We had hoped once again to host vendors, speakers, and vigorous public discussion of energy options for our island, and our state. Recent confidential negotiations between Molokai Ranch, California wind developer Princeton Energy, Maui County and Maui Electric Company, however, have cast doubt on our ability to keep the Festival as transparent and neutral as the previous two.

These negotiations concern a proposed 25 Megawatt Solar Farm with pumped hydro backup, to be placed on Ranch land above and below Manila Camp. While the project sounds promising, many basic questions remain unanswered. Moreover, Maui County’s premature endorsement of the project, before any public meetings have been held, risks giving project developers false confidence about community buy-in.  According to the December 4th Dispatch, Princeton Energy CEO Steve Taber “does not plan to hold a meeting with the entire community.” Certain of the negotiating parties are already reported to be executing “non-disclosure agreements.”

Among the questions which need answering are: What would be the impact on Manila Camp? Has anyone asked those residents what they think? Why didn’t the County schedule public meetings to explain the project and gather input before they endorsed it? This is, after all, the whole point of bottom-up planning, which was the goal of IAM’s Molokai Clean Energy Initiative. This is also the whole point of our Resolution, HCR 189, which endorsed bottom up planning statewide and received unanimous support from our Legislature.

How will this project affect MECO’s Molokai grid? What upgrades would be needed? What would they cost? Who would pay for them? How will this project impact our grid’s ability to accept more residential solar? Can this project provide island scale emergency backup? What guarantee do we have that this new wind company will not purchase Pattern Energy’s entitlements and revive the industrial wind/undersea cable plan? This project does switch us to renewable energy. In theory, it also promises to reduce our rates; but in practice, with projected and probable costs, it’s hard to see how rates won’t go even higher.

IAM has never opposed appropriate development for the Ranch or for Molokai. We would love to support a project like this, if it checks out and wins broad community support. We have simply insisted that large projects follow an open, public and democratic process. This isn’t much to ask. Securing community buy-in first clearly saves time and money down the road. The Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, for example, has understood our request, and has reshaped its proposed battery project accordingly. The Princeton project could also be a winner, but only if its drivers are willing to brake for democracy.

I Aloha Molokai


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3 responses to “PRESS RELEASE

  1. I cannot believe Molokai ranch wants to upgrade their west end maunaloa town the camp sites…I think this sounds like a sales pitch to sell the ranch as is for profit…I have reservations .

  2. Reply to: Article by Henry Curtis talks about new energy proposal for Molokai

    Trade winds drop, and Hawaii gets muggy By AUDREY McAVOY June 3, 2013 10:27 PM Associated Press: A recent study, published last fall in the Journal of Geophysical Research, showed a decades-long decline, including a 28 percent drop in northeast trade wind days at Honolulu’s airport since the early 1970s.

    Going forward that is 1% fewer trade wind days per year. Right now Hawaii has about 101 days per year that we have no trades. Windmills need wind. The cost of maintenance and decommissioning, or the occasional fire can increase operating and other costs in a system producing less income. Diminishing returns and fires have forced other wind farms to abandon the project and file for bankruptcy.

    In addition we have had 6% less rain annually over the last 25 years. Less rain and hotter days will make water more valuable for farming, residential use, hotels, swimming pools and other non salt water related activities. Water might some day be as valuable as energy.

    Pump hydro is a system with two water reservoirs. Water is run downhill from one to the other through a large pipe. Pipe and turbine energy loss along with the moving parts, maintenance and the cost of motors pumping all that water back uphill make pump hydro only economically feasible where water is abundant and energy is cheap.

    Evaporation (water loss) is a function of reservoir surface area, wind speed and ambient temperature. As you increase the surface area with two reservoirs, you increase the water loss through evaporation. Does the ranch have enough water to waste this way? see:

    Molokai’s peak electric demand is about 5 megawatts (without the Ranch Lodge and the Kaluakoi tourist services at full occupancy) between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Photovoltaic panels will produce more energy in a drier climate. Putting the PV system at the Ranch’s headquarters will only benefit the Ranch because the Ranch will not need to pay MECO any transmission fees to power the re-opened Ranch Lodge next to the solar array. That PV array might also power up further development of the Ranch lands on the west end taking more energy from the rest of the existing MECO grid.

    The rest of the island will see little if no decrease in current MECO rates as MECO tacks on its transmission and distribution fees to and from the power originating far from its generators in Kaunakakai. GOOD batteries are expensive. Hawaii developers so far have been using low end batteries with resulting fires and other safety and environmental issues. Safe and reliable storage is a complicated issue that will take much more time and space to fully analyze.

    Biodiesel produced on island is a good source of fuel for the MECO generators and for transportation, with very little modification to the existing engines running on this bio fuel. It takes time and money to grow crops that will produce home grown biodiesel. If biodiesel is the fuel of choice, start planting a lot of acres right now. Most biodiesel crops take 7 years before first harvest. In 7 years, the cost of MECO power (now about $.50 per kWh could be over $.70 per kWh.

    An alternative to fossil or bio diesel in the short and long term is ethanol produced from renewable crops that are well suited to Molokai’s soils, current and predicted rainfall and climate even under a global warming scenario. Ethanol can be blended with diesel in a 60% diesel to 40% ethanol mixture. Ethanol from sugar beets produces two completely mechanized crops per year in climates like Molokai, uses about 1/2 as much irrigation water per acre as sugar cane and is environmentally benign. Income to farmers far exceeds any other cash crops per acre. Home grown ethanol can also be blended with gasoline in E10 to E85 transportation fuels.

    The Powoer Purchase Agreement (PPA) is a very good way to leverage the cost of energy for MECO consumers only if the reduction in cost to MECO is passed throughout to consumers. This cost reduction pass through has NOT been the case with any of the Hawaiian Electric Industries subsidiaries in the past. If MECO can get power at a lower rate, the increased profit margin will most likely be used to offset its past losses on island which have been considerable. The PPA will allow the Ranch to develop the project and reduce its costs through considerable Hawaii and federal incentives that will create a very large profit margin and return on the Ranch’s investment.

    We all know that the Ranch and developer will make a lot of money (perhaps up to approximately $40 million) up front by way of the federal and State incentives. Maybe some of those tax credit and rebates could be funneled back into the community by way of subsidies to cash poor farmers and non profits working with local kids and the elderly. The Princeton team seems to be made up of very well connected, wealthy people who might not mind spreading the wealth, or at least a little part of it. No doubt they will become neighbors, buying up some estates in Kaluakoi, especially if the hotel and golf coarse are reopened.

    A coop is a very good idea, however, before the coop takes title to the system, the system (transmission and production) needs to be efficient enough to produce power at a cost that will bring the island in line with other systems of comparable size and technology. Taking over a system that is on the verge of bankruptcy is not a good business plan for the community.

    This Molokai Ranch plan is self serving and will only reduce its current and anticipated energy costs for a re-opened Lodge right next door to the PV array. The Lodge will NOT be on the MECO grid and will not be subject to any transmission or line costs. This is not to say that the Ranch should not have an option of producing power close to its source at its cost for its benefit. Under the current plan, the Lodge will then have cheap power and might provide badly needed jobs to the Manila town community. This cheap power to the Lodge will not “trickle down” to the rest of the island system. It will simply be siphoned off the 5MW solar array at the source.

    There are other ways to skin the existing MECO energy cat (pardon the expression). A turbine and PV based Micro-grid could reduce MECO transmission cost and increase reliability throughout out the new grid system. The existing MECO generators would simply be back up.

    The community and MECO should not rush into something. Other options are in the works that might make more sense. An option designed and developed by local people with Ka Poe Hawaii Nei on the front burner and profits kept reasonable enough to give the island a system that will produce reliable, green and renewable energy, responsibly, and reduce the cost to consumers at the same time.

  3. Ernest & Nancy Poland

    As a Manilla Camp resident we do not want the Ikehu Moloka’i project. Unable to attend tonight’s meeting with only 4 days notice. Please represent us. Mahalo!!

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