The experience of residents living near the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV), about 20 miles south of Hilo on Hawaii’s “Big Island”, raises serious questions about the environmental health and safety of geothermal energy and power plants. Longstanding residents of area around PGV’s geothermal plant– now being expanded– were given a long overdue public hearing on geothermal energy recently at a special session of the Hawaii County Council in Pahoa.
Their well-documented, well-presented testimony provides details of the history of what’s now the PGV geothermal energy plant’s development and operations over the decades since it first began producing electricity. It’s not a pretty picture. In fact, it’s very disturbing.
Open venting of geothermal gases and liquids rife with toxic chemicals and heavy metals, poor environmental monitoring, control and reporting, corporate lies, lax oversight and a particularly troubling, even seemingly nonchalant disregard for residents’ repeated requests to local government and state authorities to investigate their concerns and claims command attention and raise very serious environmental health and safety questions regarding geothermal energy’s credentials as a ‘clean, green’ energy source.
Hawaiian government and electric utility HECO (Hawaii Electric Light Co.) are looking to significantly exapnd geothermal energy production. Hawaii, as well as other states and countries around the world, have very substantial geothermal energy resources, and they are looking to develop them as sources of clean, stable, long-lasting electrical power. The benefits of doing so need to be comprehensively, honestly and openly assessed and considered, however, against the costs, and I’m talking here not about the financial costs, but about the long-term, possibly irreparable threats and damage to human and other forms of life, as well as land, water and air.
Geothermal energy technology has come a long way since the 1970s, but if the experience described by residents living near the PGV plant is a reliable indication– and it seems to be– geothermal energy developers such as Ormat Technologies, which operates PGV, along with utilities and local authorities need to respond truthfully, comprehensively and quickly to Hawaiian residents’ legitimate concerns if they care to preserve their own credibility and legitimacy.
Watch the Big Island Video News video of the PGV geothermal plant resident group’s presentation via this hyperlink. Thanks to Oahu News for posting this. And thanks to this determined, civic-minded group of residents who have fought so long to have their voices heard and their legitimate concerns addressed.
The issues they raise need to be addressed, and they stand to benefit not only themselves, but residents living near geothermal plants everywhere, as well as the geothermal, clean energy and clean tech industries in the US and worldwide. That’s if their voices and actions are given the consideration they deserve.
I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.