The Energy Office of the State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) announced it will soon begin its $2.9 million study of the feasibility of installing an undersea energy transmission cable between Molokai and Lanai to Oahu.
The Molokai News reported in June that AECOM Technical Services was selected by an evaluation committee to study the impact of this undersea cable that would connect wind farms on Lanai and Molokai to Oahu. Now the DBEDT has announced its intention to move forward with an Environmental Impact Statement ((EIS) on this project.
While homesteaders on Hawaiian home lands on Molokai have already expressed reservations with this plan, the state continues to push the project forward as part of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative that calls for Hawaii to use 70 percent clean energy sources by 2030. If successful, the project could bring 400 megawatts of energy from Molokai and Lanai, providing approximately 20 percent of Oahu’s energy needs and 14 percent of the state’s 2030 renewable energy target.
First Wind, the Massachusetts company seeking to build a wind farm on Molokai, has stated that it will not move forward without community support. Neither the Department of Hawaiian Homelands nor Molokai Ranch has agreed to let First Wind build on their land. The plan calls for the installation of up to 20 turbines on Hawaiian Homestead land in Ho`olehua, followed by as many as 60 turbines on Molokai Ranch land in a second phase.
While the EIS will provide a framework, uniform policies, and a process for deciding how to implement this project, it does not grant any development rights or permits. The main purpose is to evaluate the undersea cable, the wind farms and utility infrastructure upgrades that would be needed on Oahu to integrate the energy into its grid.
The study is being funded through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and therefore must be completed by the end of April 2012.
The study is being conducted for the Hawaii Interisland Renewable Energy Program (HIREP). The public has a three-month opportunity to provide input through the beginning of March. For more information on how to comment, log on to www.hirep-wind.com.