Located as it is about 2,400 miles (3,900 km) WSW of San Francisco about in the middle of the northern Pacific, residents and businesses on the ‘Big Island’ of Hawai’i pay a lot for energy. Imported oil has been the primary fuel, not only for transportation, but for generating electricity in the Hawaiian Islands.
The situation could be radically different, however. The Hawaiian islands are rich in wind, solar, and, as you’d expect given the fact that they sit atop a volcanically active rift in the earth’s oceanic crust, geothermal energy.
“All that is needed is cooperation and initiative to make the move to 100% renewable energy, agreed all the speakers” at a government-sponsored conference in Hilo at which the Hawai’i County Geothermal Working Group released the results of its effort to map the island’s geothermal resources with the aim of identifying those suitable for exploiting to provide clean, reliable baseload electricity, according to a press release from Mayor Billy Kenoi’s office.
Enough Geothermal Energy to Power Hawai’i 3-7x Over
“Hawai‘i County should aim and commit to being 100 percent renewable,” Mayor Kenoi said. “Federal, state, county, community, we’re all in this together. We all recognize our commitment to our children and future generations and the quality of life on Hawai‘i Island.”
Demand for power on Hawai’i Island ranges between 90 megawatts (MW) and 185 MW. In its report, the Geothermal Working Group estimates Hawai’i Island’s geothermal resources have the capacity to produce between 500 MW and 700 MW of electrical power.
“On this island we spend over a billion dollars every year to import oil for our energy needs here on the island,” said Wallace Ishibashi, co-chair of the Geothermal Working Group. “That money can stay right here to build a better community.”
Residential Utility Customers’ Bills Reduced Following Puna Geothermal Expansion
The one geothermal power plant up and running on Hawai’i — the 30-MW capacity Puna geothermal plant in the island’s East Rift Zone — has been producing between 25 and 30 MW of nearly-zero-emissions baseload electricity for Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) since 1993.
On December 30, 2011, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approved a renegotiated power purchasing agreement (PPA) between Puna Geothermal Ventures and HELCO that reduces the rates paid by HELCO for an additional 8 MW of geothermal power being readied to come on-line this month, according to a Pacific Business News report.
Residential customers’ monthly electric utility bills will be reduced by about 70 cents as a result of the new PPA agreed to by Helco, Puna Geothermal Ventures — a subsidiary of Nevada’s Ormat Technologies — and now approved by the Hawaii PUC. HELCO and its customers will pay reduced rates for electricity production between 25 and 38 MW, while continuing to pay the same “avoided cost” rate for the first 25 MW.