New Kahikinui renewable energy proposals sought

Process restarts after NextEra, Sempra efforts fail

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is again seeking applicants for renewable energy projects in Kahikinui in southeast Maui after previous proposals, including one from a NextEra subsidiary, fell through.

The deadline for receipt of proposals is 2 p.m. Jan. 18 for a general lease on 500 acres of DHHL land in Kahikinui, according to a public notice. While previously approved projects have been for wind power, all types of renewable energy projects will be considered, Cedric Rekoi Duarte, information and community relations officer for DHHL, said Friday.

In the past, wind, geothermal and solar projects have been proposed, though Duarte noted that “there seems to be an appetite for wind.”

“DHHL is willing to consider all types of projects that may be appropriate for the region as determined by an evaluation committee,” he said in an email.

DHHL has restarted the process to find a suitable renewable energy project based on community interest, especially with the possibility of lease revenue benefiting homesteaders, Duarte said. He noted DHHL also has received inquiries from renewable energy entities about Kahikinui.

In November 2015, Boulevard Associates LLC, an affiliate of Florida-based NextEra, was awarded by the Hawaiian Homes Commission a right-of-entry permit and general lease to survey 500 acres at Kahikinui to determine if the site was feasible for wind power development and, if so, to identify the best sites to build.

Plans were to construct a 60-megawatt wind project with 20 turbines on 30 acres. The company had three to five years to assess the area and to conduct cultural, environmental and archaeological studies as well as wind and engineering analyses.

If NextEra deemed the project feasible at that point, it would enter into a 20-year general lease with DHHL and apply for a power purchase agreement with Maui Electric Co.

At the time, the winds seemed to be blowing favorably for the project with a proposal before the PUC for NextEra to purchase MECO’s parent company, Hawaiian Electric Co. But in July 2016, the PUC rejected NextEra’s $4.3 billion purchase of HECO.

A month later, NextEra pulled out of the Kahikinui wind project.

All was not lost, though, because DHHL said Sempra Energy was another qualified bidder. And the company was familiar with the general area, having built the 21-MW Auwahi Wind project on Ulupalakua Ranch land in December 2012.

A little over a year ago, Sempra Renewables was granted a temporary right of entry by DHHL for access to the Kahikinui parcel for the purposes of developing a renewable energy project, said Lisa Briggs with Sempra Infrastructure Government Affairs in an email Friday.

“We worked with the Kahikinui Ohana and conducted several environmental, cultural and other assessments to determine the area’s suitability for a wind project,” she said. “From those assessments, Sempra Renewables put together development plans for a project we named Kahikinui Wind.”

The 24- to 30-MW project was proposed for several miles south of Auwahi Wind, she said.

Kahikinui Wind and an expansion of Auwahi Wind were submitted by Sempra as part of a request for proposals process for renewable energy by MECO last year, she said.

“Unfortunately, neither of the Sempra projects was chosen by MECO in this most recent round,” Briggs said.

Duarte confirmed that Sempra’s proposal with DHHL was terminated after the inability to work out an agreement with MECO.

Briggs said Sempra is aware of DHHL’s current solicitation of renewable energy projects, including Kahikinui, and “remains interested in continuing to develop Kahikinui Wind and has made DHHL staff aware of that interest.”

Duarte said that as of Friday afternoon no applications had been filed.

He said that the decision to seek new renewable energy applicants was encouraged by the Kahikinui community, which could benefit from a long-term lease. NextEra had agreed to pay DHHL $175,000 per year for the first three years and $200,000 annually for an additional two years if needed.

NextEra representatives said at hearings that its “community benefits package” would top $300,000 annually during the term of the lease, though no formal contract had been signed.

Duarte noted that only 5 percent of land managed by DHHL can be used for residential purposes. “Where there is an opportunity to generate revenue to benefit the trust and create more housing, DHHL will effort to do so,” he said.

“This renewable energy project will contribute to that effort,” he said.

The process will involve hearings and approvals by DHHL and the Hawaiian Homes Commission. An environmental assessment will be required before the start of leases.

Applicants are required to describe their project and land needs and offer timelines for completion, financial data and business framework, the public notice said.

Information packets are available on DHHL’s Procurement webpage, under the “Public Notice” heading, at dhhl.hawaii.gov/procurement/. Packets also may be picked up during regular office hours at DHHL’s headquarters, 91-5420 Kapolei Parkway, Kapolei, Oahu.

Applications may be hand-delivered to the DHHL headquarters or mailed to Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Land Management Division, Attention: 2019 Renewable Energy Projects, 91-5420 Kapolei Parkway, Kapolei, HI 96707.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.