Councilman Ilagan’s Statement About Yesterday’s Puna Geothermal Venture Steam Release

At approximately 4 p.m. on March 13, Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV), tripped off line and experienced a steam release. The steam was released through the plant’s Emergency Steam Release System, which abates hydrogen sulfide emissions.

PGV

Council Member Greggor Ilagan of District 4, went directly from Hilo’s County Council Meeting to the PGV site in Puna Wednesday afternoon. Council Member Ilagan discussed the plant’s steam release with staff of PGV, which included Operation Manager, William E. Wiebe, and Plant Manager Cliff Townsend.

“Everyone worked together quickly and effectively. PGV’s safety mechanisms were put into action immediately, the public was notified, and the appropriate authorities took action. I feel it’s better to be overly cautious than unprepared” said Council Member Ilagan.

PGV staff monitored the facility and surrounding area throughout the late afternoon and into the evening. The Fire Department’s personnel also assisted in these efforts. “Everything went well…precautionary procedures were implemented early on. The community did a great job. Those that were concerned chose to leave and seek information,” said Darryl Oliveira, Director of Civil Defense.

The Pahoa Community Center, with direction from the Department of Parks and Recreation, opened their doors for those who preferred to remain outside of the area. According to Ken Nagasawa, Director of the Pahoa Community Center, “just one” couple arrived in the evening after the center had been notified to “stand down,” at approximately 6:45 p.m.

The Hawaiian Electric Light Company (HELCO), released a statement at 6:45 p.m. on March 13, which explained that power to 20,095 customers in the Waikoloa, Waika, Kailua, Kaloko, Captain Cook, Kuakini, Waiakea Uka and lower Puna, which included the PGV plant, was interrupted when HELCO’s transmission line tripped open. The PGV plant tripped off line following HELCO’s power interruption. HELCO continues to investigate the exact cause of the event.

“I’d like to thank Civil Defense, Fire Department, Department of Parks and Recreation, and staff of the Pahoa Community Center for their swift execution of contingency plans.” Council Member Ilagan continued, “To the residents of Puna and Hawai’i County, thank you for maintaining calm with Aloha, during this event.”

 

Plan Boosts Big Island Geothermal

The electric utility on Hawaii island published Friday the first draft of a plan to add 50 megawatts of geothermal power to the island’s electric grid.

Hawaii Electric Light Co. will seek public comment on the draft to help guide renewable energy developers as they prepare their bids to supply geothermal power to HELCO. A final draft of the document is scheduled to be completed by January, and selection of the winning bidder or bidders is expected by July or August.

An existing 38-megawatt geothermal plant on Hawaii island already accounts for about 20 percent of the island’s peak electrical load. An additional 50 megawatts would push the amount of geothermal generation to nearly 50 percent of peak load.

Inside the Puna Geothermal Ventures plant in Puna, Hawaii

“This project combines our efforts to increase renewable resources on our island with a commitment to reduce costs for consumers,” HELCO President Jay Igna­­cio said.

HELCO customers pay among the highest electricity rates in the state.

HELCO plans to conduct a technical conference webi­nar next month to allow prospective bidders to ask questions and provide comments on the draft document, known as a request for proposals, or RFP.

The contracted price HELCO will pay developers for the geothermal energy will not be linked to the cost of oil, as is the case with many of the other renewable energy projects on Hawaii island.

“This is incredibly important for ratepayers on the Big Island,” said Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz. “This will help stabilize prices. What people on the Big Island need is clean, affordable energy, and that’s the purpose of this RFP.”

One of the keys to making the plan work is engaging the community, he added. “We are working hard to have it done right, respecting the environment and the culture,” Schatz said.

Puna Geothermal Plant

Bringing another 50 megawatts of geothermal power online will pave the way for the eventual retirement of fossil fuel-burning electrical generators on Hawaii island, he said.

More than 40 percent of the electricity consumed on Hawaii island is generated from renewable resources, the highest percentage of any island in the state.

Besides geothermal, Hawaii island has hydroelectric, wind and distributed solar power generation.

Commentary on Bill 256 (Geothermal) by Councilman Pete Hoffmann

Probably no issue in recent memory has as many twists and turns as the discussion regarding Bill 256.  We have a cast of supposed villains, heroes, politicians, angry constituents, and an almost endless litany of related topics to add spice to the confused mix.  We have the ‘perfect storm’ of conflicting interests.  I’m not sure that even a professional group of writers could have scripted a more complex scenario.  Let’s see if I have this correct:

Bill 256 proposed by Mr. Yagong alters the current objectives for which the County expends resources from the geothermal relocation fund.  These payouts were mandated as part of the settlement due to the 1991 blow-out of the well.  Initially these were designed to resettle residents who wished to escape from the ‘dangers’ of living near a possibly unstable volcanic hole in the ground.  For a variety of reasons, the County used very little of the funds since not many residents exercised the option of moving, and the few that did, found the bureaucracy daunting.

In 2007 the Council, at the urgings of Ms Naeole the Puna Council member at that time, expanded the purposes for which the funds could be used, determining that Puna’s infrastructure needed some resources.  This measure was passed without much debate (as I remember) and with almost unanimous support from those community members who did testify.   Now, with the backlash generated by the drilling of a new well, some community members want to see these funds employed to better monitor and plan for emergencies associated with the future operation of the geothermal facility, citing concerns for public health.

In response to these vocal concerns, the County Civil Defense Director Benedict Fuata initially indicated his office would become pro-active and prepare the specific evacuation plan called for many years ago as one of the necessary measures to plan for future contingencies.  I think even Mayor Kenoi added his public support for this new plan.  Mr. Fuata also promised to actually conduct an evacuation drill in July to test the system.  One can only wonder why the County’s Civil Defense office didn’t take such actions previously?? Nevertheless, it was good to hear that the current administration was rectifying this long period of inactivity.

Now, if  I read correctly the latest newspaper article, the administration is backtracking.  We are now told we don’t require a specific evacuation plan for Puna, that the current general plans will suffice.  And we aren’t going to conduct any drills at the present time.  I can only speculate what changed the administration’s approach to this issue, but I don’t believe this latest statement will do much to enhance the County’s credibility with Puna residents on either side of this issue.

Another component of the current geothermal discussion involves the State.  The Governor wishes to exploit the geothermal resources present in the volcano and has encouraged Puna Geothermal Ventures (PGV) to drill another well.  The State indicates it wants to export geothermal power to Oahu by means of a cross-island cable.  I’m not opposed to this concept; after all we are one state and we would benefit (indirectly at least) from any effort that would reduce the state’s dependency on fossil fuel.  However, the state does not wish to prepare another Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for this new well.

PGV maintains that previous documents, dating back some years, are sufficient to cover this EIS requirement.  Residents are skeptical about this argument and even those advocating for geothermal power wonder whether the State is not marching down the same unsuccessful path trod by the superferry in respect to EIS requirements.

Then we also have Ormat, the geothermal developer.  From the information I have gathered (and I’ll admit I am no technician in this field) Ormat’s history seems to be a solid one.  While I can’t evaluate expertly all the details, it would seem that if we had to find some developer to operate the geothermal plant, Ormat would be a reasonable choice.  I recognize that Ormat has a considerable stake in this process and obviously doesn’t wish to have its safety responsibilities subject to public veto.  However, as the rhetoric increases and becomes more shrill, Ormat is now criticized for being ‘foreign’ and I’ve even heard testimony and have received at least one e-mail that chastises Ormat as an “Israeli” enterprise.   The aloha spirit suffers in the wake of these comments.

Finally, we have the Leilani Estates homeowners now realizing that this entire debate/discussion may have unintended consequences, i.e. property values may be adversely impacted if the Council passes Bill 256.  Someone has ‘connected the dots’ and recognizes that safety issues, real or imagined connected with the geothermal facility, could affect property values, not to mention home insurance.  This may have been overlooked by many in the initial stages of this discussion. I know I raised this when speaking to a few Puna residents some weeks ago, commenting that to ‘awaken the sleeping dog’ has potential side-effects.  Did we not understand that when residents of Leilani Estates recently supported Mr. Blas’ legislation for an evacuation center in the Leilani community, that the question of property values would arise?  I’ve heard testifiers say that when they came into the area in the mid-90s looking to purchase a home, they were not informed by realtors that a potential danger might exist.

Does anyone not see that with all the public discussion now on this topic that it will be extremely difficult for realtors to avoid disclosure of this issue in the future, if indeed they were guilty of this in the past?  Didn’t anyone see the connection?  I fully sympathize with homeowners in the area, but I fear that regardless of what the Council does with Bill 256 in any form, property values will suffer.  One can speculate whether the County’s inactivity on certain aspects of this issue for the past 20 years didn’t take into account just this aspect of the problem? Whatever the reason the ‘sleeping dog’ is now awake.

There are other related participants in this saga (I haven’t even mentioned HELCO for example, which seems to be everyone’s bad guy), and other detours in this very complex debate.  Let’s remember, Bill 256 did not set up the mechanism to relocate Puna residents if they wished to move.  This was part of the original code adopted years ago.  Bill 256 does establish a specific radius (one mile) around PGV for relocation, replacing the word ‘near’ in the original code with a specific distance.  Some are now calling this a “condemnation zone”, but the relocation option was always present.  What was not present is the current very vocal and strident debate regarding geothermal drilling.  And Bill 256 does call for the use of funds to purchase and/or expand a number of safety items and equipment to meet the concerns of local homeowners.

Bottom line: In my opinion, it would be negligent of the Council to refuse to emphasize procurement of safety equipment.  I understand fully the concerns of homeowners regarding their property values.  For many their homes represent a life-long investment.  But I see this in a different light, primarily as a safety issue, and as an elected public official if I have to make a choice between property values and public health and safety, I must choose the latter.  I’m certainly willing to continue this discussion to make certain I haven’t missed anything, but for the moment, this is how I see this matter.

Councilman Pete Hoffmann

 

County Council Candidate James Weatherford on the Geothermal Royalties

The Hawaiʻi County Council is considering legislation to redirect the county’s share of geothermal royalty funds back to their original purpose – addressing community impacts from geothermal development.  James Weatherford, candidate for Hawaiʻi County Council District 4, fully supports this initiative and says Bill 256-12 must be passed.

County Council Candidate James Weatherford

“This is not about being ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ geothermal. This is about responsible government being responsive to community concerns,” Weatherford said in a statement released by his campaign today.

“The incumbent from Puna has had a year-and-a-half to address the concerns of the community in the vicinity of the geothermal plant,” Weatherford added. “Instead of responding to and addressing his constituents’ concerns regarding impacts of geothermal in the community, he has been spending geothermal funds for other purposes. Instead of draining the geothermal royalty fund, I will bring Puna taxpayers’ money back to Puna by doing the work required through the budget process to get capital improvement projects for the district.”

Bill 256-12, introduced by Council Chair and Mayoral Candidate Dominic Yagong, will provide an opportunity for residents now living within one mile of the Puna Geothermal Venture facility to be relocated, and would prevent those properties from being reinhabited via resale or rental. This will start to create a buffer around PGV, where as now, some residents live right next to the geothermal power plant.

In addition to relocation, Bill 256-12 also promotes public health and safety by providing expenditures on health studies, air quality monitoring and real-time public notification of emissions.

Mandated emergency evacuation preparedness is also being considered by the council in a separate measure.

On May 16th, the legislation received a favorable recommendation from the Council’s Agriculture, Water, and Energy Sustainability Committee. Scheduled for June 6th is the first of two more votes needed before being sent to the Mayor for signing into law or veto.

Hawaii Lawmakers Visit Puna Geothermal Venture

This weekend a group of lawmakers have been touring the Big Island and this afternoon they came out to Puna on the East Side of the Big Island to visit the Puna Geothermal plant known as Puna Geothermal Venture.

The entrance to the facility

They arrived in several car loads shortly after 4:00.

The legislators arrive

I’m not sure exactly how the group came together other then the fact that they were coming to the Big Island to see sustainable projects and Richard Ha seemed to be coordinating a lot of the efforts.

Richard Ha talks to Senator Donovan Dela Cruz

The lawmakers started the day with a tour of Mauna Kea and by the end of the afternoon it looked like many of them were pretty tired as the presentation on PGV began.

Inside the control room

We watched a 12 minute video on how geothermal energy was produced followed by a slide show presentation on some of the facts about the plant itself.

Plant Manager Michael Kaleikini fielded questions about PGV to the lawmakers

Ormat Technologies, Inc.  a world leader in geothermal development, acquired Puna Geothermal Venture in June 2004 and launched a $32 million upgrade to existing technologies.  Improvements were made in noise reduction and 100 percent of its excess fluids are injected back to the earth’s interior without exposure to the open air.”

Not sure what these are... but they looked cool

…The seven senators and two representatives on Saturday will visit Mauna Kea, Kamuela Vacuum Cooling Plant, Puna Geothermal Venture’s power plant in Pohoiki and Hilo small businesses.

Then on Sunday, they’ll see Green Point Nursery, Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center, Hu Honua bioenergy power plant and Hamakua Springs Farms… Washington Examiner

The lawmakers were running short on time so we didn’t get to tour the entire facility and I only took a few pictures of the facility.

More interesting stuff

They really didn’t want folks taking pictures of the plant and I may have to take a few of these down in the next few days if Ormat throws a hissy fit.

Anyone know what Halon 1301 is?

I’m glad the lawmakers had a chance to come over here.  I will say that it sounds like Senator Malama Solomon is not real happy with the place and you will be hearing more from her on this soon enough… but so be it.

Richard Ha and Senator Malama Solomon share a moment

I was glad to see our own State Senator Faye Hanohano there as she literally lives within a few miles from the place and really seemed to have a grasp on a lot of things that were being said.

Kaleikini and Senator Hanohano talk about geothermal

Click here for more information on Puna Geothermal Venture.

For further reading, see Richards post “About Geothermal Operations & Safety Concerns”

“There have been questions about general safety issues regarding geothermal. I asked Mike Kaleikini, Puna Geothermal Venture’s (PGV) Operations Manager, what safety requirements exist that PGV must comply with…. ” Ha continues on his site Ha! Ha! Ha!

Hastings and Pleadwell Win Koa Anvil Award for Puna Geothermal Work

Congrats to Hastings and Pleadwell for their work with one of their clients  Puna Geothermal Ventures.  Due to their work with PGV… they have taken home a prestigious Koa Anvil Award.

I just read the following tweet from Big Island Resident Laura Kinoshita:

CONGRATS to Hastings and Pleadwell for Award of Excellence, Technology for work on behalf of Puna Geothermal!!! #KoaAnvils

Hastings and Pleadwell were also the folks that tipped me off about the Scholarships that were being given to the Pahoa Highs School kids.

At the Pahoa H.S. awards ceremony: (top left) Tiana-Marie Kahealani Araujo- Thornton, Lei Kyna Ganiron, and Kaleikini; (bottom left) Fuafetoimailelagi-FiaSalemeanai Valinda-Sue Wilson, Krissel Anne Alcon Lagua, Denarose Fukushima and Rex Fiesta.

At the Pahoa H.S. awards ceremony: (top left) Tiana-Marie Kahealani Araujo- Thornton, Lei Kyna Ganiron, and Kaleikini; (bottom left) Fuafetoimailelagi-FiaSalemeanai Valinda-Sue Wilson, Krissel Anne Alcon Lagua, Denarose Fukushima and Rex Fiesta.

I remember being at the 15th Anniversary gathering  of Puna Geothermal Venture this past year and meeting a few Hastings and Pleadwell officials.

Naeole, Kenoi, and Aiona eat with Ormat Chief Technology Officer, Lucien Y. Bronicki

District 5 Councilwoman Emily Naeole, Mayor Billy Kenoi, and Lt. Governor Duke Aiona eat with Ormat Chief Technology Officer, Lucien Y. Bronicki

…In the early 1990s, Puna Geothermal Venture, a partnership between two mainland power companies, received a permit to produce renewable geothermal energy at a site in Puna in the East Rift Zone. The facility went online in 1993

More Here

Lt. Governor Duke Aiona gave a brief speech about Hawaii becoming more self sustainable. His key words that I picked up on were:

“The Era of Oil is Over”

Lt. Governor Duke Aiona with Ormat Chief Bronicki

Lt. Governor Duke Aiona with Ormat Chief Lucien Y. Bronicki and Wife

Billy Kenoi and Some Ex-Blogger

Mayor Billy Kenoi and Some Ex-Blogger/ Mayoral Stalker (Hunter Bishop)

Geothermal Electric Vehicle

Geothermal Electric Vehicle

Kainui Stocksdale and Representative Hanohano

Kaniu Stocksdale and House Representative Faye Hanohano

Cousins Councilwoman Emily Naeole and State Rep. Hanohano

Cousins Councilwoman Emily Naeole and State Rep. Hanohano

Emily Naeole's New Legislative Aide(s) R.J. Hampton and Sativa

Emily Naeole's New Legislative Aide(s) R.J. Hampton and Sheryle "Sativa" Sulton

Kau Kau

Kau Kau

Emcee - Jacqueline "Skylark" Rosetti

Emcee - Jacqueline "Skylark" Rosetti

Six College-Bound Pahoa High School Grads Receive Scholarships From Puna Geothermal Venture

Six seniors from Pahoa High School will attend college this fall with scholarships from Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) and Tropical Ponds Hawaii LLC, an exotic fish farm located on the PGV site.

At the Pahoa H.S. awards ceremony: (top left) Tiana-Marie Kahealani Araujo- Thornton, Lei Kyna Ganiron, and Kaleikini; (bottom left) Fuafetoimailelagi-FiaSalemeanai Valinda-Sue Wilson, Krissel Anne Alcon Lagua, Denarose Fukushima and Rex Fiesta.

At the Pahoa H.S. awards ceremony: (top left) Tiana-Marie Kahealani Araujo- Thornton, Lei Kyna Ganiron, and Kaleikini; (bottom left) Fuafetoimailelagi-FiaSalemeanai Valinda-Sue Wilson, Krissel Anne Alcon Lagua, Denarose Fukushima and Rex Fiesta.

“There is no better investment than the education of our Puna youth,” said
Michael Kaleikini, PGV plant manager. “We are particularly proud of this year’s winners and look forward to following their progress.”

One of the students, Denarose Fukushima, worked as an intern at the PGV
administrative office last summer.

This is the tenth year PGV has awarded scholarships in cooperation with Pahoa High School, which selects the recipients.

Fukushima and Lei Kyna Ganiron each received $1,000 to attend University of Hawai‘i-Hilo. Krissel Anne Alcon Lagua, Fuafetoimailelagi-FiaSalemeanai Valinda-Sue Wilson, Tiana-Marie Kahealani Araujo-Thornton, and Rex Fiesta each received $500 to attend Hawai‘i Community College.

PGV is also a sponsor of this year’s annual “Salute to the Graduates Program”
hosted by Pacific Radio Group, Inc. which recognizes outstanding seniors from 15 Big Island high schools.