Catherine Cluett Pactol / Molokai Dispatch
A proposal for a large-scale solar project on Molokai is on the table and residents are questioning the project’s benefits and whether community ownership of the project down the road is viable or desirable.
With the island’s energy grid on the brink of change, a group of community energy leaders from around the world visited Molokai last Monday to share their perspectives on renewable energy solutions with residents.
“We [want to] come away with a sense of hopefulness… that together we can make happen what we need to have happen that benefits our aina and our community,” said Emillia Noordhoek, co-director of Sust`aina ble Molokai, which hosted the day-long discussion at the Kulana `Oiwi Halau on Feb. 19.
Several years ago, Noordhoek started researching renewable energy models around the world, one of which was the island of Samso in Denmark, which had achieved 100 percent community owned renewable energy in 10 years. When she was in Denmark for a conference in 2013, she visited the island and a working relationship was born that has resulted in the Tentou Network. Tentou connects small communities with similar energy goals around the world to form a more powerful collective voice. Today, Tentou includes five community organizations from Denmark, Japan, Australia, Maine (U.S.) and Molokai.
“What Emillia has done is gone around the world and cherry picked these experts who also live on small islands in rural communities and were at a position that we’re in now — how do we create a sustainable future for ourselves?” said Sust`aina ble Molokai board member and UH law professor Malia Akutagawa. “So we have the benefit of hearing from them… the lessons that they learned, what worked for their community, what are the questions that they asked… The purpose and intent of this is to… be able to make well informed decisions.”
Members of the Tentou Network shared their communities’ journeys to renewable energy solutions with Molokai residents. Also attending the discussion were representatives of Maui Electric as well as Half Moon Ventures, the company that has proposed a 37-acre solar array and battery storage project that could supply more than 40 percent of Molokai’s energy needs.