Study identifies potential Maui wind farm locales

Kaupo, Kahikinui, Kapalua and the Paia-Haiku areas have been identified by an “internationally recognized” energy resource consultant to be potential wind farm sites on Maui.

But consultant AWS Truepower based in New York said the areas could be hard to develop because they are in or near cultural sites, there may not be land available and projects would have community opposition because the wind farms could infringe on views and neighborhoods.

The sites were identified using data covering wind speeds, terrain, land ownership and other criteria in a report commissioned by Castle & Cooke Hawai’i, which has rights to develop a wind farm on Lanai.

In light of costs and the “speculative nature” of wind development on Maui, no more than 120 to 150 megawatts can be feasibly developed on the Valley Isle, according to Castle & Cooke. Company officials said they discussed the potential output with wind developers in the state.

“Moreover, even if 200 MW of wind are developed on Maui and a cable is constructed to bring the electricity to Oahu, that capacity will not satisfy HECO’s (Hawaiian Electric Wind Co.) need for additional wind power,” the developer said in a filing last week to the state Public Utilities Commission.

Currently, the PUC is seeking public comment on whether a high-voltage, Maui-Oahu undersea power cable would be in the public interest.

State Energy Administrator Mark Glick said at a Maui public hearing last month that connecting the grids would reduce electricity rates for both islands, lower wind energy curtailment or waste, reduce pollution from burning harmful fossil fuels and help Hawaii meet its clean energy goal of 40 percent renewable energy by 2030.

In its PUC filing, Castle & Cooke says it supports a cable from Maui County “to move abundant renewable energy resources to Oahu.”

But the filing adds that the interisland transmission system needs to offer the maximum number of feasible renewable generation resources and not just resources on Maui. The AWS report says that resources on Oahu and Maui are not enough to meet HECO’s needs.

The report also identified the Kahuku and Kahe areas on Oahu as possible wind farm sites.

Among other points, Castle & Cooke said “the only likely viable major wind resource on Maui is twice as far from Oahu as the wind resource on Lanai.”

The company said it commissioned the report “in light of the lack of information about the feasibility of further wind development on Maui and the importance of such information to the billion-dollar infrastructure decision which the (PUC) is poised to make in this and related dockets.”

Even after Castle & Cooke in 2012 sold more than 88,000 acres on Lanai to Larry Ellison, Oracle Corp.’s chief executive officer, Castle & Cooke retains the rights to develop a proposed wind farm on the island.

The project has for several years divided residents of the small island and fostered animosity against former island owner David Murdock, chairman of Castle & Cooke.

Last July, the PUC opened a proceeding to review the progress of the company’s Lanai wind project.

An opponent of wind farm development on Lanai, Robin Kaye, discredited the report Tuesday, saying that Castle & Cooke is citing community opposition, infringement of views and concern about cultural sites, as reasons the Maui farms would not work. However, he pointed out that those are the same reasons why Castle & Cooke’s wind farm project is still at a halt on Lanai.

“They are just trying to downgrade Maui and bring back the (attention) to Lanai. It’s the same argument,” he said. “What’s changed? What we think is happening; they are just trying to sell the rights that they have. They are trying to position this (Lanai wind farm project) as ready to go as it is; (but) it’s not ready to go.”

Kaye of the Friends of Lanai, a group that was formed for citizens who oppose the building of an industrial wind power plant for Oahu on Lanai, added: “Castle & Cooke is just not getting the message; it’s not going to happen.”

Maui County Energy Commissioner Doug McLeod said the report is “adding unnecessary confusion about the discussion” of the interisland cable issue.

He said the sites identified as potential wind farm areas exist on maps but are not realistic sites because there would be many concerns from the community and many other issues to overcome.

“Our overall message is that these maps are really not useful at this moment in time. They don’t represent real projects,” McLeod said.

According to the filing, the report says the Kaupo area identified would include Kaupo Ranch and land near the community center of Kaupo Store.

The Kahikinui area site would be adjacent to the existing Auwahi wind project owned by Sempra, which has publicly announced plans for expansion in the area. The Auwahi project is on Ulupalakua Ranch land, and the expansion would likely need to sit on land owned by the state Department of Hawaiian Homelands, the filing said.

Sites in the Paia, Pauwela and Kokomo area include the famous “Jaws” surf spot in Peahi. Other sites along the north shore are near Paia town and Haiku, where land is used for pastures or is being developed for residential use.

The Kapalua area includes the coast and ridges above the Napili, Kapalua, Honolua Bay and Honokahau areas. Some wind farm sites are “very close” to luxury homes in the golf course area of Kapalua.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at