The proposal to develop Big Wind on Molokai appears to have died with Molokai Ranch’s decision to not renew its land lease to Molokai Renewables.
Molokai Properties Inc. (Molokai Ranch) CEO Clay Rumbaoa issued a statement to the Honolulu Civil Beat yesterday:
“After much consideration and discussions with Molokai Renewables, we made the decision not to renew the agreement for the proposed wind farm project on Molokai Ranch lands at this time. Our focus is currently on ensuring the success of our newly re-launched ranching operations and our efforts to re-open existing facilities, such as the Maunaloa Lodge, in an effort to create opportunities for the island. We have enjoyed working with Molokai Renewables and appreciate their commitment to smart and sustainable wind projects.”
While Molokai Ranch made no absolute statement about windmills, it does not seem likely that it will pursue any industrial-scale wind projects on its land in the future.
Guy Kaulukukui, senior vice president for Bio-Logical Capital in Hawaii, the company that partnered with Pattern Energy in creating Molokai Renewables, expressed his disappointment to the Civil Beat over this decision:
“While we are disappointed with Molokai Properties’ decision not to move forward with our proposed wind farm project on Molokai Ranch lands, we respect their decision. We have enjoyed working with Molokai Properties and appreciate their commitment to Molokai.”
Kaulukukui went on to state that the research they had done showed that Molokai residents would have benefited from the wind farm proposal, “one with unique benefits commitments to restore and conserve the land, preserve Molokai’s rich culture and way of life, and enhance the ocean resources and local food supply that Molokai depends on.”
He also expressed his gratitude to the people of Molokai who offered “excellent ideas” for establishing a wind farm on Molokai. Bio-Logical Capital, he said, will continue to pursue other sustainable energy projects in Hawaii.
The community group I Aloha Molokai has fought against the Big Wind proposal for several years and was clearly pleased with Molokai Ranch’s decision. One of the concerns now is whether Hawaiian Electric Company will pursue the undersea electric transmission cable idea and try to tie Molokai into a statewide electrical grid.
“That’s good news for us, but it doesn’t mean that we are going to back off on opposing the cable,” IAM President Kanoho Helm told the Civil Beat. “If the cable is still on and they plan to still try to hook up Molokai with the cable, we will have to be ready for that.”
Now that Molokai Ranch appears to have abandoned Big Wind, the other community concern is what it may try to do to make money from its undeveloped West End land. MPL’s parent company, GuocoLeisure Limited, stated in its 2012 annual report to investors that it, “is embarking on a new four-pronged strategy to deliver value on the island,” which includes ranching, agriculture and property development.
In 2008, Molokai Ranch’s bid to develop 200 luxury home sites on Molokai’s southwest shore in the area of La’au Point was shot down by community protests and an anticipated negative ruling from the State Land Use Commission. How Molokai Ranch will use its now uncommitted thousands of acres will be the subject of much speculation and future stories.