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West Maui community association secures community benefits from solar project developer

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The West Maui Preservation Association said it has secured community benefits from Innergex, developer of a utility-scale solar project. With the enforceable benefits in place, WMPA said it will withdraw its opposition to the project currently before the state Public Utilities Commission.

Innergex’s Kahana Solar project would bring a 20 megawatt and 80 megawatt-hour battery storage system to West Maui.

Maui Electric Company’s proposed power purchase agreement with Innergex is currently before the utilities commission. WMPA intervened to address various community issues.

In September, the commission held a two-day virtual contested case hearing. Afterwards, the commission ordered WMPA and Innergex into mediation.

The parties were mediated by retired Maui Circuit Court Judge Joel August.

The settlement agreement includes $55,000 for 25 years in annual community benefits to organizations such as Lahainaluna High School, Maui Cultural Lands, Puʻu Kukui Watershed and the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College.

An additional $15,000 will be distributed in small grants to West Maui community groups through the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation.

It will pay 80% of its workers the prevailing wage, prioritize hiring West Maui workers and form a decommissioning plan.

Lance Collins, a spokesperson for WMPA, said they are hopeful that the PUC and HECO will use this as an example of how to standardize community benefits and local labor requirements.

“It's one thing for a developer to say that they're going to do something and then nobody can enforce it, and it's another thing when you have basically a commitment in writing and that if they don't follow it then we can, you know, seek the court's assistance in having them do that," Collins said. "And then the other is to get a gift together clear who is it is going to get the community benefits, so you don’t end up in a situation like Kahuku, where the community benefit isn't going to the Kahuku community, which I think is this added insult to injury in that community.”

If the PUC approves MECO and Innergex’s agreement, the project will go before the Maui Planning Commission. On Innergex’s website, the project is expected to be commissioned by the end of 2023.

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