KAHULUI - Maui Community College wants to power its likely soon-to-be built 2,400-square-foot Lau'ulu Center with a small-scale wind turbine generator, school officials said.
So, there will be a lot of construction taking place on the Valley Isle's University of Hawaii campus in 2010.
In addition to the Lau'ulu Center - which is for Native Hawaiian housing assistance - the college is about to seek out a construction company to erect its long-awaited $26 million science building, college and state officials said Thursday.
Both the Lau'ulu Center and the science building are expected to have windmills and photovoltaic or solar energy systems used in combination to generate clean, emissions-free electricity.
But first, David Tamanaha, MCC vice chancellor for administrative affairs, is scheduled to go before the Maui Planning Commission on Tuesday to seek a special management area use permit for the Lau'ulu Center and a pole-mounted wind turbine.
The maximum height of the windmill will be 45 feet, and it will be located almost a football field length away from the building it will supply with electricity. The public is invited to testify at the 9 a.m. hearing in the Maui Planning Department Conference Room at 250 S. High St.
The Lau'ulu Center will provide instruction and technical assistance to Native Hawaiians seeking affordable housing or those trying to qualify for homeownership, according to MCC documents. The single-story structure will be built on the site of the termite-infested Nursing Administration building, which had to be torn down.
According to MCC, Native Hawaiians have lower median incomes than the general population, and Maui has some of the highest home prices in the nation, both of which limit their housing choices. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funded the project's total cost with a $757,000 grant in order to help address those housing gaps.
Part of that plan includes realizing some of the government's clean energy goals as well. Up to 25 percent of the Lau'ulu Center's energy needs can be met with the two green energy systems, according to MCC's permit application to the county.
County Planning Department Director Jeff Hunt said he and his staff support the center and wind turbine project, which will be located on the eastern end of the Ho'okipa Building on campus. However, he anticipates there may be some concerns expressed by neighbors about potential blocked views, he said.
The small wind turbine technology for individual homes and businesses is relatively new to Maui, with only several on island, mostly in agricultural zones where height limits and altered sight lines aren't as big a concern. In fact, the Maui County Council is expected this year to take up a bill championed by the Planning Department and Council Member Mike Molina that would allow the generators, which can reduce home electricity costs by up to 90 percent, in all zoning districts.
MCC's proposed small wind turbines would be located on land zoned light industrial, so the special use permits are required.
This type of turbine is not to be confused with the 200-foot-high structures at the Kaheawa wind farm on the pali, experts said.
State Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran said there is an emphasis, for obvious reasons, to make the science building state of the art.
The science building is expected to go out for a construction bid in the next couple weeks, MCC spokeswoman Katie McMillan said on Thursday.
The new science building was a legacy project for the late Rep. Bob Nakasone, whose district included Kahului. More than $3.3 million has been spent to date designing the 34,000-square-foot building.
Construction is estimated to take 480 days to complete, according to Gov. Linda Lingle's capital improvement projects Web site. The governor's office states that the project is undergoing "lab layout" changes.
State Sen. Shan Tsutsui, of Central Maui, said the design changes are probably complete now and were necessary since MCC did not receive its full funding request of $38 million for the science building.
Keith-Agaran, who succeeded Nakasone, said the project was funded using general obligation bonds over the past two legislative sessions.
Tsutsui, who is vice chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said the governor's office has released the funds. MCC is also seeking several more million dollars for lab and teaching equipment, which it will likely receive, he said.
"They (MCC) are on track with the project," Tsutsui said. "One of the reasons they really pushed for this is to address the growing need for nurses throughout the state. MCC wants to enroll more and get them out in the work force in a timely manner."
* Chris Hamilton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.