My Turn: More about Lalamilo Wind Farm

I thank West Hawaii Today’s Max Dible for his excellent reporting on the Lalamilo Wind Farm. As County energy coordinator for almost a decade, the Lalamilo Wind Farm comprised seven years of my public service. It was a remarkable journey, first, convincing County Administration it could be done with no taxpayer dollars, then designing a request for proposals (RFP) attracting the best renewable energy developers to build a cost-effective power project for a system responsible for moving water consuming 25 percent of the $20 million Water Department energy.

With the help of National Renewable Energy Laboratory, we presented at the Water Board meetings gaining their full support to go forward. This was during a time when HELCO rates were near all-time-highs and tremendous pressure was on our Water Department to find solutions like Lalamilo that would save water ratepayers $1 million/year.

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Seven bidders sent in their qualifications to be considered for the project; we whittled those down to three. With bidder team interviews and final offers reviewed, the clear candidate was Lalamilo Wind Company (LWC). LWC had proven they could deliver the sophisticated cost-effective wind farm specified. The Evaluation Committee presented this recommendation to the Water Board where they unanimously declared LWC the winner.

The contract was signed October 2013. LWC got to work financing &building the wind farm. In September 2015, a blessing ceremony was held. Press releases and public speeches rolled out. One year later, LWC produced a modern wind farm capable of harnessing Lalamilo wind conditions into useful power for water-pumping.

The national spotlight reached Lalamilo at the 2017 United States Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards. They stated: “This is arguably the first time in Hawaii, and perhaps the nation, that a local government has developed such a wind-powered, water-pumping facility capable of significant greenhouse gas reductions at no-cost to the taxpayer.”

Unfortunately, today there is a contractual dispute. The main issue is ‘what is the minimum wind energy contracted by the Water Department’. The Water Board has turned the matter over to their lawyers. However, I am encouraged by the recent collaboration of the Water Department as they have increased using half to two-thirds of the wind energy available. I am hopeful, the disputed issue will be resolved quickly and the system envisioned: a wind-water system working in complete synchronicity improving the environment and delivering savings for our island, will be.

Sincerely,

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Will Rolston

Director, Energy Island