Maui News

Court decision delays Paeahu Solar project

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A Hawaiʻi Circuit Court on Wednesday decided to delay the Paeahu Solar project on Maui.

The utility-scale renewable energy plus battery project in South Maui, gained approval from the Public Utilities Commission in 2020. At the time, it was one of four Maui projects planned to come online over three years as part of Hawaiian Electric’s efforts to meet the island’s energy needs with local, renewable resources.

Innergex, a renewable energy developer based in Canada, has plans to build and operate the 15-megawatt solar array with a 60-megawatt-hour battery energy storage system on approximately 200 acres leased from ‘Ulupalakua Ranch, mauka of Pi‘ilani Highway in Kīhei. The project plans to utilize 150 acres of fallow grazing land for the project.

‘Ulupalakua ranch land. PC: Innergex at https://www.innergex.com/development-opportunities-in-hawaii/the-paeahu-solar-project/

According to Innergex, the court decision allows the Maui Meadows Neighborhood Association and a local opposition group to intervene before the Commission in a new proceeding on the Maui County Special Use Permit that is required for the project, which reportedly gained approval in 2021.

“While Innergex continues to believe that the minority of individuals who oppose the solar project should have intervened in their own names rather than through organizations, we respect the ruling,” according to a company statement.

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Innergex is planning to demonstrate that the project will provide “a clean, inexpensive, and abundant energy source” to benefit Maui residents.

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Oliver Robson, Sr. Project Manager at Innergex called the development a “setback” for Maui.

“The Paeahu Solar project is a critical component in achieving Hawaiʻi’s renewable energy goals and, as importantly, in meeting the growing energy demands of the South Maui community,” said Robson.

In addition to delaying the start of construction for the project, the ruling also impacts the original commissioning date.

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“As the local Maui firm selected to design and build Paeahu Solar, we and our local subcontractors have for the past year focused our engineering and development resources as we assemble our local crews to begin constructing Paeahu Solar in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Michael Reiley, President of HNU Energy, a Maui-based solar company founded in 2007.

“This is devastating for us, our subcontractors, the Maui ratepayers, and the estimated one hundred local construction workers and engineers which the project would employ,” said Dr. Reiley.  

Innergex reports that Planning Commission approval was granted last year after “several years of community engagement and extensive biological, archeological, cultural, drainage, traffic, engineering, and other studies.”

“With the imminent closure of the 74- year-old fossil fuel burning Kahului Power Plant, the Paeahu Solar project is a critical part of maintaining an affordable adequate supply of power, achieving Maui’s renewable energy goals, and reducing Hawaiʻi’s dependence on imported fossil fuels,” according to a company statement.

Paeahu Solar is one of 17 projects statewide selected by Hawaiian Electric through an RFP process it initiated in 2018 to move Hawaiʻi toward its 100% renewable energy goals.

Detailed information about Innergex and the project can be found online.

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