Ikehu Molokai, the project to convert Molokai’s electricity grid to 100 percent renewable energy, will be under discussion tomorrow at a meeting being held by I Aloha Molokai.
The meeting from 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs conference room at Kulana ‘Oiwi will be attended by representatives from Molokai Ranch, Princeton Energy Group, Life of the Land, Maui County and other politicians. This is according to Henry Curtis, executive director of Life of the Land, the non-profit public interest group that researches Hawaiian energy issues.
Steve Taber, visiting from project developer Princeton Energy has already attended several small community meetings to receive feedback. Princeton has entered a lease agreement with Molokai Ranch to use its land for the project’s solar arrays.
Since the meetings held in December 2013, Princeton Energy has changed the plan. Initially, it called for 80-acre array of photovoltaic panels in Manilla Camp that would power a pumped storage hydroelectric system. Water would be pumped four miles uphill during the day and the downhill flow of this water at night will capture its hydroelectric potential to use when the sun is down.
After meeting with Manilla Camp residents, Taber heard concerns about the affects on their neighborhood including visual and wildlife impacts.
“In response to these concerns,” wrote Princeton Energy in a statement, “we have gone back to the drawing board and analyzed many alternative technologies and locations for the project.”
The first alternative would involve a photovoltaic field and flow batteries in the industrial park area near the Maui Electric Company power plant. In this plan, energy storage is provided by large flow batteries that occupy several acres of land.
The second alternative is solar thermal generation, also in the industrial park area. This alternative would have a field of mirrors of about 50 acres concentrating sunlight on a 300-foot high tower, where it would store heat to be used to generate electricity.
The Hawaii State Legislature currently has two bills under consideration to assist with this project, regardless of which direction it takes, HB 1942 and SB 2754. If passed, they will authorize Princeton Energy to issue up to $50 million in special purpose revenue bonds for the planning, design and construction of the energy project. Taber said these bills will allow the issuance of longer term 30-year bonds which will make the project more affordable.
Kanoho Helm, representing IAM, has testified in opposition to this bill. He believes the bill goes against Resolution 189, which IAM wrote with the House, that mandates bottom up planning on projects that affect Hawaiian islands.
“The Molokai Ranch and Princeton Energy Ikehu project falls short of the intent of this Resolution,” said the IAM statement. “Although Molokai Ranch and Princeton have met with IAM and various other community groups about the Ikehu project, they have failed to produce any project supporting documentation. When asked to provide engineering reports, financial projects or any other plans, they cannot. IAM believes it is a mistake to allocate funds for projects that have not been vetted or put through the proper bidding processes.”
“IAM’s position against the SPRBs (Special Purpose Revenue Bonds) is unfortunate for the residents of Molokai,” wrote Taber in response. “If we were to put off the SPRB allocation until next year’s legislative session, we would lose the 30 percent federal subsidy, which would mean higher cost of capital and therefore less or no rate relief. We certainly don’t think IAM is intentionally working against the needs of the island for rate relief, but that would be the actual effect of their position, if the SPRB allocation failed.”
Regarding the lack of detailed plans available, Taber said that is because the project is still in its preliminary stages and plans are still being developed. “It seems unfair to criticize us for not having details; that is a necessary result of involving the community early in the process,” wrote Taber.
“Princeton Energy Group will hold island-wide meetings with more detailed plans on the latest proposal some time in March. Taber said they would like to hold three meetings — for East End, West End and central Molokai areas — to discuss the plan in more detail and listen to community concerns. Meeting dates and locations will be announced here and also at the ikehumolokai.com website.