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.
WAILUKU – Maui planning commissioners Tuesday praised a proposed wind farm as a “wonderful, wonderful project” but raised doubts about getting the massive equipment to the remote location on the southwest flank of Haleakala between two sections of the Auwahi native plant restoration area.
The commission was commenting on a draft environmental impact statement for Sempra Energy’s proposed wind project at Ulupalakua.
Worries about losing the last highway ocean views to what Chairman Jonathan Starr called “pole land” also came up Tuesday. But the wind farm itself was warmly received, with Starr wishing only that it could be bigger than the 21 megawatts proposed.
Pardee Erdman, of Ulupalakua Ranch, which will lease nearly 1,500 acres to Sempra, called the project “a win-win for the ranch.” He said the infrastructure needed to transport heavy turbines and lengthy vanes will “make that land more productive than it is today,” although he added, “We are going to continue raising cattle.”
Maui Electric Co. has contracted to begin purchasing wind electricity from the project a year from now.
But developers still have to obtain many permits before they can proceed, including a special management area permit for parts of the project makai of the road to Kahikinui.
ULUPALAKUA – The next native plant restoration trip to Auwahi on the southern flank of Haleakala will be on Saturday.
Volunteers need to RSVP as soon as possible to reserve a seat.
Hiking boots that cover the ankle are required, along with layered clothing, rain gear, two liters of water, lunch, sunscreen and a hat.
Gear including backpacks and boots should be cleaned to prevent the spread of weeds in the restoration site.
High-clearance four-wheeled drive vehicles are also needed.
For information or to reserve a spot, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 573-8989.