HONOLULU ““ With 20 1.5-megawatt wind generators in place, Kaheawa Wind Power is seeking a lease to expand on 325 acres on the slopes above McGregor Point.
The lease request has raised concerns over environmental and visual impacts that have generated criticism from some residents of Maui, according to a report being submitted today to the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.
Kaheawa Wind Power is seeking a negotiated lease for state land adjoining the 200-acre wind farm that went into operation in June. The submittal to the land board meeting this morning in Honolulu includes a recommendation to allow the state Land Division to negotiate a direct lease to Kaheawa Wind Power II LLC with rental of $12,000 a year.
The expansion proposal would add up to 18 wind turbines and supporting equipment capable of producing up to 27 megawatts of electrical power.
The current wind farm on 200 acres on the Kealaloloa Ridge has a capacity of up to 30 megawatts, although actual production is expected to run about 8 MGW because of the intermittent nature of wind power.
According to the submittal to the board, the wind power company will need to win board approval for a conservation district use permit before the Land Division can submit a lease for board approval. A conservation district use application will trigger requirements for environmental reviews.
The request to expand the wind farm operations is being questioned by both state and county agencies.
Fern Duvall, a wildlife biologist with the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife on Maui, said the new application appears to “parcel out” plans for a massive wind power project that may require an environmental impact statement on the cumulative impacts of the wind farm.
“Are the 18 towers mentioned in this application request the last towers to be developed? Or are they simply the next increment of more towers planned in the future on the same or some additional lands at Kaheawa,” Duvall wrote.
He cited concerns that construction of the current wind farm may have introduced invasive species to the site that adjoins valuable conservation land.
In turn, Maui County Planning Director Mike Foley cited criticism from Maui residents over the visibility of the 180-foot-tall towers when the wind farm was completed in June.
“The proposed application should address visual impacts the towers will have,” Foley wrote. “A comprehensive view analysis should be included in the application.”
He said the visual impacts are greatest from a distance, primarily from the Kihei-Wailea area. Since the proposed lease site is lower on the slopes above the pali section of the Honoapiilani Highway, he said there may be a visual impact on that area.
Duvall added that the proposed new site would abut the Lahaina Pali Trail, a historic trail that is part of the state’s Na Ala Hele system. He questioned how the “view pollution” from the massive towers can be addressed as well as the potential for individuals on the trail entering into the wind farm property.
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