Maui group questions impact of Paeahu Solar Project
Caption: The Pulelehua, or Blackburn’s sphinx moth, is one of Hawaiʻi’s largest native insects, and is a federally listed endangered species, according to the state. (Photo courtesy Forest and Kim Starr)

Safe Solar Projects, a campaign by Pono Power Coalition, is raising concerns about the potential impact on the surrounding community and environment by a proposed solar energy development on Maui.

The Paeahu Solar Project, announced in 2018 by Paeahu Solar, LLC/Innergex Renewables USA LLC, may displace multiple threatened and endangered native Hawaiian species, prompting the coalition and Maui Meadows Neighborhood Association to petition for intervention.

An evidentiary hearing concluded in January with the hearing officer’s findings and recommendations yet to be issued. The Maui Planning Commission will review the matter once documents are available.

The solar plant, as currently proposed, threatens numerous endangered Hawaiian species and increases the risk of fires. It would be located within a rare remnant native dryland forest area, which is crucial for many native species’ survival.

The Blackburn’s sphinx moth, or Pulelehua, once thought to be extinct, is essential to Hawaiʻi’s environment by controlling invasive species, pollinating plants and as a food source for native birds.

Plants native to Hawaiʻi, such as the Wiliwili tree, Golden Mallow, White Leadwort, Hawaiian caper and endangered yellow Mao Hau Hele Hibiscus — the official state flower — could also be affected.

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