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BLNR allows talks on wind farm's growth 

HONOLULU ““ A request to negotiate a lease for state land on the Kealaloloa Ridge for expansion of the Kaheawa Wind Power plant was approved Friday but with strict conditions for additional studies on environmental and visual impacts.

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources also made clear that the authorization for the state Land Division to initiate negotiations for a direct lease did not mean a lease will be granted, Land Board Chairman Peter Young said.

Approval of a lease “will be subject to a review of all of the environmental issues,” he said.

Kaheawa Wind Power is proposing to expand with 18 more wind turbines on a site to the west and makai of the existing Kaheawa Pastures wind farm between 2,000 and 3,000 feet elevation above Maalaea and McGregor Point.

Mike Gresham, president of Makana Nui Associates, the local partner to Kaheawa Wind Power, said the request is in response to indications by Maui Electric Co. that it would use additional power from the wind farm.

“At this time, we don’ t know how much they could use and whether we could complete the entitlement process and whether the community would support the expansion of the project,” he said. “This is the first step to get answers to those questions.”

One element of the proposed expansion will include a test tower to determine the feasibility of the site, and the land board required the company to acquire a conservation district use permit just for a test tower.

The board also mandated complete studies on the vegetation, animals, birds and archaeological and cultural sites in the area of the proposed wind farm expansion site. The site borders a section of the West Maui Forest Reserve and is in the vicinity of the Manawainui Plant Sanctuary established by the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife. The wildlife division also has established a nene release pen on the ridge above the existing Kaheawa wind farm.

Kaheawa installed 20 180-foot-tall wind turbines on the Kealaloloa Ridge, with a potential output of 30 megawatts when the wind is blowing.

Actual production is lower, but Gresham said Maui Electric reported that current output is saving 1,000 barrels of fuel a day.

“This is a huge step toward energy self-sufficiency for Maui,” he said.


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