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Kauai solar project awaits lands lease


LIHUE >> Kauai Island Utility Cooperative is poised to build a second 12-megawatt solar power generating facility and could begin construction next year when it signs a lease with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

The Garden Island ( reports the project cleared a hurdle when the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service issued a “Finding of No Significant Impact” for the Anahola Solar Project. The Hawaiian Homes Commission in September voted unanimously to accept the environmental assessment.

The proposed $50 million project along Kuhio Highway would consist of a 53-acre photovoltaic facility, a 5-acre service station and a substation.

“We’re still talking with the Department of Hawaiian Homelands,” said KIUC communications manager Jim Kelly by email. “The environmental review is done, the financing is in place. Once everything is settled, we could be in construction within a couple of months.”

Punialoha Chee, Department of Hawaii Home Lands information officer, said the department is working with the co-op.

The facility is projected to generate more than 23,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year and replace 1.7 million gallons of oil.

The project has been criticized for using Hawaiian homelands for something other than homes.

“As a native to Hawaii, my roots are connected to Anahola, as well as Hanalei, Hilo and every other point in between,” said Donovan Cabebe, of Kalaheo. “I’m certainly not a fan of using the land for any other purpose than giving Hawaiians a place to call home.”

Stephanie Blakemore said sacred land should not be turned into a “field of solar panels.” Panels could be installed on business and home roofs, she said.

A 30-day comment period on the 588-page environmental assessment ended June 18.Planning Solutions of Honolulu collected 25 comments, including 17 from government agencies and eight from private citizens.

Anahola Hawaiian Homes Association Vice President Kipukai Kualii said the project would be an economic boon.

“For us, this project is a nonprofit economic development initiative, which will create job opportunities, educational avenues in the renewable energy field for our kids, and most definitely offer land stewardship responsibilities that the (Hawaiian Homes Commission Act) always intended for us as Hawaiians to have with our lands,” Kualii said in an announcement.

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