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Agreement will speed wind power to Oahu


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POSTED: Wednesday, March 18, 2009

An agreement between competing companies to develop neighbor island wind power projects simultaneously likely will help get wind-generated electricity to Oahu sooner than expected, officials said.

First Wind Hawaii and Castle & Cooke announced an agreement yesterday to develop wind farms on Molokai and Lanai, respectively, that each would supply 200 megawatts of power to Oahu via a proposed network of undersea cables connecting the island power grids.

Hawaiian Electric Co. last year solicited bids for a project to supply 400 megawatts of wind-generated power to Oahu from the neighbor islands.

Robbie Alm, executive vice president of Hawaiian Electric, said both companies submitted strong proposals. Rather than have the two continue bidding, Alm said officials tried to broker a compromise in which both could develop their projects. A bidding duel might have lasted a year, maybe more if the losing bidder appealed, Alm said.

“;They agreed to, essentially, each pursue a 200-megawatt wind farm — to not spend the year competing with each other but to, in fact, give both islands an opportunity to participate in changing the direction that Hawaii's going to face,”; Alm said.

“;They both believe theirs is the better project,”; he added. “;They both believe theirs is the project that should go, but their willingness to try, at this point, to get both going is a major step forward.”;

Company officials said they did not want to let competitiveness get in the way of advancing Hawaii's renewable energy goals.

“;We are a private company with very strong goals,”; said Harry Saunders, president of Castle & Cooke Hawaii. “;The major goal that we saw was getting Hawaii off of its addiction to oil and what it does to the state economically; what it does to the state environmentally. We could not let the competitive nature of private companies stand in the way of moving forward.”;

The proposal to provide more wind-generated electricity to Oahu is part of the state's overall strategy to lessen its reliance on fossil fuels and generate more energy from renewable sources such as wind, wave, solar and geothermal sources.