PAUKUKALO – The Hawaiian Homes Commission granted a subsidiary of the Florida utility trying to purchase Hawaiian Electric Co. a right-of-entry permit and general lease on Tuesday that would allow the energy company to build a 60-megawatt wind farm in Kahikinui.
The commission unanimously voted to approve the permit for Boulevard Associates LLC, an affiliate of NextEra Energy, to survey 500 acres of land at Kahikinui on the southern flank of Haleakala to determine if and where would be best to build 20 wind turbines on about 30 acres of land. According to project documents, the developer is eyeing land near the ocean on the southeastern portion of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’ 22,860 acres at Kahikinui.
NextEra now has three to five years to assess the area and to conduct cultural, environmental and archaeological studies, as well as wind analysis and engineering assessments. In exchange, the Florida-based utility will pay the department $175,000 per year for the first three years and $200,000 per year for an additional two years, if needed.
If NextEra deems the project feasible at that point, it would enter into a 20-year general lease with the department. The lease rent has not yet been publicly determined. The commission voted Tuesday to give the Hawaiian Homes Commission chairperson the authority to negotiate the final terms and condition of that lease.
NextEra representatives told the commission during a public hearing in August that the “community benefits package” to Kahikinui homesteaders and the department would top $300,000 per year of the 20-year lease.
In addition, they said the wind project will help “deliver upon Hawaii’s state energy goals” of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
The state Public Utilities Commission urged Maui Electric Co. earlier this month to seek out “well-proven, lower-cost resources (that) could result in a cleaner and lower-cost energy supply.”
“We believe Kahikinui is an excellent wind resource and can provide the sort of proven low-cost power described by the PUC,” said Doug McLeod, an energy consultant to the NextEra project.
Kahikinui homesteaders supported the project if it meant more money would go toward needed infrastructure improvements to the remote area. And, they want a seat at the table when decisions, like the final terms of the lease, are made.
“I am not alone among Kahikinui homesteaders in the desire to achieve for our homestead community a measure of capacity and economic self sufficiency,” said Donna Sterling, one of two people who testified on the wind project Tuesday. “In order to achieve this goal, Kahikinui must sit at the table when negotiating the final terms and conditions of the general lease at Kahikinui.”
Department of Hawaiian Homes Deputy Director William Aila told the commission that representatives of the Ka Ohana O Kahikinui homestead organization did sit in on two negotiation meetings with NextEra representatives to finalize the current draft of the general lease.
McLeod said in an email that the Ohana “will be an important partner as we move forward.”
Commission Chairwoman Jobie Masagatani said that she doesn’t expect any drastic changes to the current draft and wouldn’t feel comfortable making any “substantive changes” to the final version of the lease, which would be signed only after a power purchase agreement is secured with Maui Electric.
In response to homesteaders’ concerns raised in August that revenue generated from the project would go into the department’s general trust fund and not directly to Kahikinui improvement projects, Masagatani said the “community benefits package,” around $300,000 per year for 20 years, is already earmarked for Kahikinui in the lease terms.
Additionally, other revenue generated from the right-of-entry permit and lease rent could also go toward Kahikinui.
“For myself, showing good faith and putting some of those resources back into Kahikinui is important,” Masagatani told The Maui News in a phone interview. “That will be an item of discussion for the commission.”
She added that if the power purchase agreement is approved and the project becomes a reality, the commission will advocate for the hiring of local residents and beneficiaries to construct the project.
“We tried to take into consideration the concerns that were raised. I hope that moving forward that the project is one that is successful not only for the community and alternative energy provider and the county, but also for DHHL and the trust,” Masagatani said.
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