Parker Ranch hopes to become major power supplier for Waimea


If the company is successful in its attempts to raise capital, one day the majority of the electricity on the leeward side of Hawaii Island could be produced by newly founded Parker Ranch subsidiary Paniolo Power Co.

That’s according to a 17-page “integrated resource plan” abstract available for download on its website, paniolopower.com. In the report — researched by a team of consultants from Siemens Industries Inc. and Booz, Allen, Hamilton Inc. — Parker Ranch makes a case for various implementations of renewable energy solutions that could supplement or, in some cases, replace the power provided by Hawaii Electric Light Co.

The research weighed a variety of combinations of power sources, including solar, wind, geothermal and fossil fuels, looking for ways to produce cheaper power than that currently provided by HELCO. The report stated that Parker Ranch’s 130,000 acres are estimated to be capable of generating more than 300 megawatts in wind power alone. HELCO’s current peak demand for the entire island tops out at below 200 megawatts, according to its website.

In each of the scenarios, the resource plan considered an initial phase in 2019, when renewable energy sources on Parker Ranch property might be integrated to provide firm capacity to meet the needs of the ranch and the greater Waimea and North Kohala Communities. That total was estimated at about 18 megawatts.

The second phase, set for 2024, looks at generating sufficient excess capacity of about 70 megawatts, which could serve about 75 percent of the load on the west side of the island.

“The large contribution to west Hawaii was thought to be potentially beneficial to not only provide a lower-cost energy source to the island, but to also alleviate the current transmission constraint connecting the generation on the eastern side of the island to the growing loads on the western side of the island,” the report reads.

What’s not clear is how the plans could impact HELCO and its remaining customers. CEO Jay Ignacio was not available to answer questions this this week, but a spokeswoman provided a prepared statement Thursday afternoon.

“Hawaii Electric Light is interested in exploring ideas that will result in reducing electric bills for all customers. We look forward to discussing Park Ranch’s plans in more detail with them,” the statement reads.

In his presentation last week to the Waimea Community Association of the study’s initial findings, Parker Ranch CEO Dutch Kuyper began the evening with a question for attendees.

“What does it feel like to be a HELCO customer?” he asked.

The question elicited a round of laughter from many of those present.

“It feels terrible,” said one man, “and I only hope you can succeed in extricating us from HELCO’s inadvertently terrible monopoly.”

Kuyper likened the island’s current energy situation to a high school trip he took as part of the Scared Straight program to Halawa Correctional Facility.

“You feel like you’re confined to a place you can’t get out of,” he said. “… What’s our sentence? … Life. We’re on Death Row.”

At a conference in Maui last month, Kuyper explained that Parker Ranch’s once-thriving cattle business has been squeezed by some of the highest power rates in the nation and state.

“Our mission has compelled us to prioritize energy because of its devastating impact on our ranching operations, our Beneficiaries and our community,” he said. “In our case, electricity is a major cost because we pump significant amounts of water across the ranch. The rise in oil and electricity prices has virtually wiped out the profit margin from half of our ranching operations.”

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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