Energy project opportunities generate interest

PAUKUKALO – Eleven entities from Hawaii, the Mainland and even Australia are interested in developing renewable energy projects on up to 500 acres of Hawaiian homelands on the southern slopes of Haleakala.

The state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Land Management Division is setting final criteria for those groups and companies that submitted a letter of intent for the project on homestead lands in Kahikinui, said Linda Chinn, the administrator for DHHL’s Land Management Division.

On Monday, Chinn was on hand to update the Hawaiian Homes Commission on the project. The commission was meeting on Maui.

It should take about a month for the division to finalize criteria for the solar and wind energy groups before they are asked to submit a best-and-final proposal, Chinn said.

Although the project for renewable energy groups to lease Hawaiian homelands and produce alternative energy is progressing, Chinn said it will probably be another four to five years before the project is up and running. Still ahead are government permitting processes and other hurdles, she pointed out.

The Kahikinui lands are not suitable for residential development because the area is remote from available infrastructure and because the area’s geology would make building challenging, Chinn said.

The alternative energy project has changed in the wake of recent Hawaii Public Utilities Commission decisions since it was originally proposed.

In July, the commission issued various decisions, including one that put on hold an Oahu-Maui undersea cable. That will remain shelved until an investigation can be done to see if it is in the public’s best interest. Another decision closed a request by Maui Electric Co. to seek 50 megawatts of firm renewable energy generation, with a PUC official telling The Maui News that the plan was “premature.”

Originally, the commission authorized DHHL to proceed with direct negotiation with potential developers for renewable energy projects in three areas on Maui that included Hawaiian homelands in Pulehunui and Honokowai.

But, with uncertainty about the need for more renewable energy projects, the DHHL said its Land Management

Division would continue with the selection of potential developers for solar and wind renewable energy only at Kahikinui.

The original DHHL proposal also had been open to other types of renewable energy projects, including biomass and hydropower.

While the PUC’s ruling was a separate matter from the DHHL process, the department’s beneficiaries were not in favor of renewable energy projects at Pulehunui and Honokowai, according to a report to the commission on Monday.

Although the report noted that most of the Kahikinui homesteaders who attended public meetings were in favor of a windmill project in the area, that was if community benefits were offered.

According to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands website, those that submitted letters of interest for the Kahikinui site include Auwahi Wind Energy, the developer of a 21-megawatt wind farm at nearby Ulupalakua Ranch, and Jasmin Solar Pty. Ltd. of Queensland, Australia, which also has ties to the U.S., according to its company website.

Others that have expressed interest in the Kahikinui alternative energy project include:

* CDF Engineering LLC, Wailuku.

* Green Tech Pacific, Honolulu.

* HRP 56 LLC, Aiea, Oahu.

* Haleakala Solar Inc., Honolulu.

* Land Vista LLC, Northfield, Minn.

* Na Po’e Kokua, Wailuku.

* NextEra Energy Resources LLC, Juno Beach, Fla.

* Solar Reserve LLC, Santa Monica, Calif.

* Ka Ohana O Kahikinui, Maui.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at