Mahi Solar Project Delayed
Unfortunately, the Mahi Solar project will be delayed because of the global supply chain crisis and sharp cost increases in solar and battery equipment, as well as rising interest rates, making no longer feasible to build the projects at the prices that were bid in 2019 and set in the PPAs. Longroad Energy made the difficult decision to terminate the Stage 2 Power Purchase Agreement (PPAs) and will instead re-bid the project into the upcoming Stage 3 Request for Proposals (RFP).
Development of the project has been successful, obtaining most of the needed permits and approvals, completing all studies and most engineering, and having strong community support. But development has been on hold since the start of the supply chain crisis while Longroad worked with Hawaiian Electric to amend the current PPAs. The Public Utilities Commission rejected the amendments and Longroad subsequently filed a motion asking the PUC to reconsider. Unfortunately, continued supply chain issues, most notably battery storage system availability and pricing, have challenged even the amended PPAs; therefore Longroad made the difficult decision to cancel the current PPA and start preparing to propose the project into the Stage 3 RFP.
We want to thank community members, landowners, consultants, government officials and the utility for their continued support of this project. We look forward to re-bidding the project later this year and hope this is ultimately just a delay in bringing it online.
Longroad Energy is designing the Mahi Solar project to produce clean energy and support local agriculture in Kunia, O‘ahu. At 120 MW(ac), this project could produce 4% of the island’s electricity annually, enough to power 37,000 local homes, enabling HECO to burn less fossil fuel and emit less greenhouse gasses. The project also includes a 480 MWh battery system would store solar energy generated during the day to provide power at night, and an electrical substation to connect to the O‘ahu grid.
Since 2005, the team at Longroad (previously as First Wind) has worked successfully with local communities to develop 7 of Hawaii’s largest energy projects. Named Mahi (which means “to cultivate”), this project plans to work with the Hawaii Farm Bureau and local farmers to find innovative agricultural uses for land between and under PV panels. The project would occupy 617 acres across several parcels of land, on the Ewa (west) side of Kunia Road. Leasing less-productive land for solar enables landowners to continue farming the rest of their properties. The project would create more than 200 jobs during construction and another 2-3 long-term positions during operations.
The project is located away from residential areas and would be visible along Kunia Road and from a distance. Based on initial studies, the project is not expected to impact cultural activities, archaeological or natural resources, but we will be conducting site assessments and also want to hear from people in the surrounding communities.If you would like to receive further information about the project or have thoughts, suggestions or questions, please sign up for our email list.
|Location||Kunia, O‘ahu (Ewa of Kunia Road)|
|Solar Capacity (ac)||120 MW|
|Battery Storage||480 MWh|
|Target Completion||December 2023|
|Parcel Tax Map Keys||9-2-001:001, 9-2-004:012, 9-2-004:006, 9-2-004:003, 9-2-004:010||Interconnection Circuit||Kahe-Waiau 138 kV circuit|
Community Outreach Plan
The Longroad team appreciates the importance of local community outreach and two-way communication about energy projects. In our days as First Wind, from 2005 to 2015, as we conducted extensive community engagement for several projects – Kaheawa Wind-I and Kaheawa Wind-II on Maui, and Kahuku Wind, Kawailoa Wind, Kawailoa Solar, Mililani Solar and Waipio Solar on Oahu – we listened to input from the community to inform and shape the design and approach of our energy projects. For this project, we plan to conduct similar community outreach to share honest information and foster conversations with nearby residents, businesses and other stakeholders to improve the project.
In 2020, we will be reaching out to community organizations and representatives via email to share information about the project. We will post updates to the project on this webpage, and we invite people to sign up for our email list to receive updates as they happen, as well as to share their ideas, thoughts or concerns with us. Over the next several months, we will be holding public meetings, either live or virtual/online, to give members of the community an opportunity to learn about the project, ask questions and provide input to us through verbal or written comments. Additionally, there will be opportunities during the permitting process for members of the public to attend, hear about the project and provide comments directly to public agencies. We will be providing information on the project and notice of upcoming meetings through press releases to the local news media and to our email list.
Online public meetings were held in July and October. We discussed updates to the project to incorporate farming activities in and around the solar panels, and we received excellent comments and questions from attendees.
Please check this webpage for future meetings or register here and we will send an email as meetings are scheduled. You can send comments, questions or suggestions on the project at any time to firstname.lastname@example.org
Longroad will also be forming a community advisory group for the project, to be made up of several volunteers who live or work in the area around the project. This community advisory group will advise Longroad and help collect input from the broader community and facilitate two-way conversations to help improve the positive impacts of the project and minimize the negative.
The positive impacts from a solar project are more clean, locally generated renewable energy, less fossil-fuel burning, less greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate changes, and hopefully lower and/or more stable electricity prices. Because of the distance of the project from residential areas, most people who live in the general area will not see the project from their homes or experience any sound, visual or other impacts. Based on initial studies, the project is not expected to create significant impacts to archaeological resources, cultural practices, or any sensitive flora or fauna. We will conduct further site studies to learn more about potential resource impacts.
Portions of the project will be visible along Kunia Road and at a distance from certain viewpoints between Mililani and Honolulu. If the project were to move forward, during the construction phase, there would be some additional vehicles on Kunia Road and some dust, but likely similar to what is now produced during farming in the same area. We want to gather more information from members of the communities near the project site to share information about potential impacts – positive and negative – and to hear their input and suggestions about how to improve the project for everyone.
Initial Site Assessment & Permitting Plan
Based on initial studies, the project is not expected to create significant impacts to archaeological resources, cultural practices, or any sensitive flora or fauna. Longroad conducted an initial site assessment in 2017 which looked at archaeological, cultural, biological and other environmental resources, as well as potential impacts to drainage, traffic, view plan, and many other factors. The result was that the project will create minimal, if any, negative impacts to the on-site resources or the surrounding community.
To date, no sensitive resources or unique conditions have been identified that warrant special consideration in the siting process. The preliminary results of the due diligence efforts, in combination with the current land use classification and zoning designations underscore the suitability of the proposed site for a utility-scale solar facility. Moving forward, the due diligence efforts will be completed to the level of detail needed to meet agency requirements for permitting and compliance with applicable laws. If any sensitive resources are identified through the remainder of this process, the appropriate steps will be taken to avoid, minimize and mitigate potential impacts, with the resulting information incorporated into the discretionary permit process. Based on the land use and zoning designations, the proposed solar project is consistent with state and county land use regulations, and no changes in the land use classification or zoning district would be required for project implementation.
|Anticipated Permit/Approval||Authorizing Agency|
|Special Use Permit||City & County of Honolulu Planning Commission and State Land Use Commission (LUC)|
|Historic Preservation Review (HRS Chapter 6E)||State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD)|
|National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)||State Department of Health (DOH) Clean Water Branch|
|Noise Permit||DOH Indoor and Radiological Health Branch|
|Conditional Use Permit (minor) and Zoning Waiver (if needed)1||City & County of Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP)|
|Grading, Grubbing, and Stockpiling Permit||DPP|
Visual & Water Impacts
Given the relatively flat terrain of the central plain and the low profile of the solar panels, most of the solar arrays located within the lower elevations of the site are not expected to be readily visible from nearby areas. Westward views of the edge of the project will be common from passing traffic along Kunia Road. However, because the maximum height of the solar panels is approximately 10 feet, the project is not expected to diminish the overall views toward the Waianae Mountains. The solar panels located in the higher elevations of the site, near the base of the Waianae Mountains, would also be visible from sections of Kunia Road and other more distant locations, between Mililani and Honolulu. As solar panels are designed to absorb as much light as possible with minimal reflectivity, the Project is not expected to result in significant glint or glare impacts. For these reasons, the Project is not expected to significantly affect visual resources.
Based on preliminary design information, the Project would not directly affect any water resources, including Honouliuli Stream or its tributaries. Given the relatively short duration of construction and with implementation of BMPs the potential for sedimentation or increased pollutants in stormwater runoff is expected to be minimal.
Archaeological & Cultural Resources
Based on the assessment, it is unlikely that the Project site contains significant cultural and archaeological resources or is used for cultural practices. If significant resources or practices are encountered, the Project will be designed to minimize any potential impacts, but in the event that resources cannot be completely avoided, Longroad would work with our consultant in consultation with SHPD and community members, to develop a cultural resource mitigation plan to address any potential issues.
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