RAPID/Geothermal/Hawaii/Land Access

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Hawaii Geothermal Land & Geothermal Resource Access(3-HI)

In order to develop geothermal resources in Hawaii, developers must obtain a lease, any required permits to encroach on existing public rights-of-way (ROWs) or state highways, and approval to cross or enter the state energy corridor.


The geothermal leasing process differs depending on whether the land is “reserved” or “state land.” Mainly, the surface owners/occupiers of reserved land have a right of first refusal for any geothermal lease application on their land. If the requested land is state land, the HDLNR goes straight to the competitive bid leasing process.

Reserved Land

Reserved Lands are defined as: “lands owned or leased by any person in which the state or its predecessors in interest has reserved to itself expressly or by implication the minerals or right to mine minerals, or both.” H.R.S. 182-1 Definitions.

As such, if the state reserved the mineral rights of any land subsequently conveyed, the land qualifies as reserved land. The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (HDLNR) oversees mineral leasing on Reserved Lands in Hawaii under H.R.S. 182-5 Mining leases on reserved lands.

After receiving a lease application, the HDNLR will determine if granting a mining lease on the reserved lands is in the greater interest of the State. Subsequently, the occupier of the land or occupier’s assignee has six months to exercise a right of first refusal to obtain a geothermal lease. If exercised, the occupier/assignee obtains the geothermal lease. If the occupier/assignee does not exercise the right, the state leasing process activates.

State Land

Developers will have to apply for and participate in a competitive bidding process in order to obtain a geothermal lease on state land. H.R.S. 182-4. The HDLNR will hold a public hearing concerning the lease nomination and decide whether leasing the state land would be a greater benefit to the state than any foreseeable future use of the land. If the nomination is approved, the HDLNR will publish a notice of a lease sale, hold a public auction, and select the highest responsible qualified bidder.


For projects that require occupancy of a state highway or parking within restricted sections, in order for construction adjacent to or within a state highway ROW, developers will need to obtain a Use and Occupancy Permit from the Hawaii Department of Transportation Highways Division (HDOT) in accordance with H.A.R. 19-105 . For projects that require routine construction/maintenance within a state highway ROW, including the minor adjustment of utilities or overhead or underground utility crossings, the developer must obtain a Permit to Perform Work on State Highways from the HDOT pursuant to H.R.S. 264-7 - Permits, Fees, Etc.. For projects that require crossing or entering the state Energy Corridor on Oahu due to construction activities, developers will need to obtain an approval letter to Cross or Enter the State Energy Corridor from the Hawaii Department of Transportation Harbors Division pursuant to H.R.S. 277 - Energy Corridors. The harbors division will not issue a letter of approval unless all three utilities (Hawaiian Electric Company, Hawaii Gas, and Par Petroleum) approve the proposal.

More Information

Determine Which State and Federal Permits Apply

Use this overview flowchart and following steps to learn which federal and state permits apply to your projects.

Permitting at a Glance

Hawaii Federal

Leasing Agency: Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawaii Department of Transportation Highways Division, Hawaii Department of Transportation Harbors Divsion Bureau of Land Management
Competitive Land Leasing: Competitive public auction for state mineral rights or reserved mineral rights where the right of first refusal is not exercised in six months.
Noncompetitive Land Leasing: Non-competitive six month right of first refusal for the surface owner of lands overlying reserved mineral rights.