WAILUKU – The Maui Planning Commission unanimously approved permits Tuesday for Auwahi Wind Energy to build and operate eight 428-foot-tall wind turbines on Ulupalakua Ranch land.
Two dozen people testified on the proposed special use and special management area permits, and none were opposed to the project, according to planner Ann Cua. Some testifiers shared concerns about traffic, safety and visual impacts of the wind farm.
The project would have the capacity to generate 21 megawatts, which would be enough power to supply electricity to 10,000 homes. The $140 million project’s infrastructure includes an energy storage system; a 9-mile, 34.5-kilovolt power line; an interconnection substation; a microwave communication tower; and a construction access road. Each generator pad would require about 2.4 acres of cleared area, while the entire project would cover 1,466 acres, almost entirely on Ulupalakua Ranch land.
The project aims to provide power for Maui island only. It is not part of the “Big Wind” project, which calls for wind farms on Lanai and Molokai to provide power to Oahu via an underwater cable.
Commission members attached conditions to Auwahi’s permits, including one that requires Auwahi Wind, a division of Sempra, to work with the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and Ka Ohana O Kahikinui Inc. to develop a community benefits package. The groups would develop a plan and sign a memorandum of agreement addressing the roadway improvement and other needs of the Kahikinui homestead community.
The project area contains more than 1,100 archaeological features on 174 sites, and the developer has designed the turbines and power lines to avoid culturally sensitive burials and heiau.
Some South Maui residents are upset about a developer’s plan to use a resort road through Wailea and Makena for construction truck access as it builds a wind farm on 120 acres of Ulupalakua Ranch land.
“It’s going to affect us economically,” said Bud Pikrone, general manager of the Wailea Community Association.
Pikrone said developer Auwahi Wind Energy LLC’s activities will create noise in a hotel and residential resort area and cause wear and tear on the roads.
Pikrone said in the last seven years, Wailea Alanui Road has had three sinkholes, including one that closed off an area for 18 months.
He said various large landowners plan to hold a meeting with Auwahi Wind next month to discuss rerouting the truck traffic farther mauka and closer to Piilani Highway.
“We’re hoping we can come up with some resolution,” Pikrone said.
The Maui County Planning Commission held a public hearing Tuesday to review Auwahi Wind’s draft environmental impact statement.
Auwahi Wind needs the commission to accept its environmental impact statement before moving to seek land-use permits.
Castle & Cooke Resorts, Lanai’s biggest employer, has proposed to erect more than 150 wind turbines on the remote northwestern end of the island and lay an undersea cable that would send the power to Oahu.
The project’s supporters say it could be a revenue-generator for the island, but opponents fear it would cut off access to important hunting grounds and have a major impact on an area rich in cultural and archaeological sites.