KULA, Hawaii >> A Nevada company is eyeing ranchland for a geothermal power plant, the Maui News reported on Friday.
A representative of Reno-based Ormat Technologies told about 100 Kula residents earlier this week the company plans to seek out about 8,000 acres of leased Ulupalakua Ranch land for sites to dig wells that could produce at 24 megawatts daily of energy for Maui.
If a drill site is located and proper permits granted, ground-breaking could happen next year, company representative Christopher Heaps said, providing about 150 construction jobs and about 30 full-time positions.
Ormat has delivered geothermal power to the Big Island for about two decades. Geothermal energy has been controversial there and could be on Maui as well if the final site is near Native Hawaiian ancient burial grounds or archaeological sites, said Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr., Ormat’s cultural adviser for the Maui project.
The company would pay millions in taxes and mineral rights royalties to be distributed among the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and Maui County, Heaps said.
Kula resident Hula Lindsey said she is skeptical about the project because Heaps acknowledged it likely wouldn’t reduce electricity rates.
Heaps told the residents the Public Utilities Commission sets rates. He also warned that while the green energy produces virtually no carbon emissions, speculative drilling is still required.
"You could be literally throwing your money down a hole," he said, noting that at least 80 percent of geothermal projects fail.
Kula Community Association member Dick Mayer is supportive of geothermal energy. "It has the potential to get us off of oil someday," he said.