KOKEE — Progress on a project to create a 5.3-megawatt hydropower plant on state-owned land on the Kokee Ditch Irrigation System has been halted.
That’s because the developer failed to meet construction deadlines, and the state withdrew the right to use the property, according to an Aug. 31 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission order terminating the permit exemption.
The state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources would not provide comment on the withdrawal of the right to use the property because the issue is in mediation.
The Puu Lua Reservoir Hydropower Project was meant to develop two facilities on former sugar cane land the Waimea District on the Westside of Kauai. The goals were to improve irrigation to agricultural lands, as well as annually add renewable energy to the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative grid.
Konohiki Hydro Power LLC, a subsidiary of Kauai-based Pacific Light and Power (PLP) and California-based Orenco Hydropower Inc., was recognized as the sole developer.
Because of a non-disclosure agreement between KIUC and PLP, PLP CEO Palo Luckett said he can’t comment on the project.
According to KIUC CEO David Bissell, this was not a KIUC project and KIUC didn’t hold permit to buy the power for the project.
Bissell said KIUC, however, has been working for a number of years on development for a potential pump storage/hydroelectric generation project on the Westside.
“This project is in the same general geographic area as the developer project referred to in the FERC order,” Bissell said. “However, KIUC’s potential project has a different routing and layout and would be on lands held by multiple state agencies.”
The potential KIUC project would not involve any FERC oversight, Bissell said.
The Puu Lua Reservoir Hydropower Project was granted an exemption by the FERC in April 2012 to build the facilities, and at that point the developer was given two years to break ground on the project.
In 2014, according to the FERC order terminating the exemption, the project was granted an extension of construction deadlines until April 12, 2016.
“The exemptee’s request stated that the additional time was needed to address delays in preparing a power purchasing agreement with the local utility and to verify the flow capacity of the conduit,” the exemption termination said.
The FERC received notice from the state in November 2015 that the rights to use the property were cancelled effective January 2015, and at that point the FERC staff contacted Konohiki Hydro regarding the development rights.
That letter went unanswered, according to the order to terminate the exemption, as did a request for final contract drawings and specifications, and a reminder letter from the regional engineer, according to the order to terminate.
A notice of probable termination was sent to Konohiki Hydro in May by FERC staff, and it also went unanswered.
According to the order to terminate, parties involved have until Sept. 30 to file a request for rehearing of the order.