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United States

Developers scale back plans in Hawaii

Two wind plant developers hoping to each build commercial wind plant feeding power to the island of Oahu in Hawaii have agreed to scale back their proposals in order to share a piece of the limited wind pie. Wind developers First Wind and newcomer Castle & Cooke had originally proposed building wind plant up to 400 MW each, but have since come to an agreement with the Hawaii Electric Company (HECO) to halve the size of their projects. HECO will work with both companies toward signing power purchase agreements. The major challenge now, says Catherine Awakuni of Hawaii's Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, is getting an inter-island transmission system built connecting the islands of Maui County with the island of O'ahu, with most of the state's population and electricity demand. First Wind is proposing a project on Molokai, while Castle & Cooke is proposing one on Lanai. Both will need send power undersea to Oahu. Studies are being conducted into impacts, logistics and costs of building a subsea transmission line. Awakuni says the US energy department estimates the cost at about $600 million. There is no consensus yet among state officials and regulators over whether to fund the line with taxpayer money or electricity ratepayer dollars. Splitting up the development provides an increased degree of certainty. "If for some reason or the other one falls out because it's not feasible for whatever reason, then I think the other might have the opportunity to again look to increase the amount to provide to HECO," says Awakuni.

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