Categorized | Business, Energy, Featured, News

PGV celebrates 15 years

Hawaii Lt. Governor Duke Aiona

Hawaii Lt. Governor Duke Aiona at the 15th anniversary celebration of PGV in Kapoho (Photos by Baron Sekiya/Hawaii247.com).

KARIN STANTON/Hawaii247.com Contributing Editor

KAPOHO — Puna Geothermal Venture last year provided the Big Island with 18 percent of its energy, making the county the state’s leader in renewable energy.

“The Big Island has a far, far higher rate than the rest of the state,” said Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona. “Clean energy is our future.”

Aiona was one of the keynote speakers Wednesday, Dec. 10 at PGV’s 15th anniversary celebration at the plant in Kapoho.

Aiona praised the facility for providing energy that is environmentally benign, without exhaust, emissions, geopolitics and fossil fuels. 

The hula halau from Kua O Ka La Public Charter School performs for the opening of the 15th anniversary celebration of Puna Geothermal Venture generating electricity on the Big Island.

The hula halau from Kua O Ka La Public Charter School performs for the opening of the 15th anniversary celebration of Puna Geothermal Venture generating electricity on the Big Island.

Since it began operation in 1993, PGV has saved the Big Island 5.5 million barrels of oil and now is a proven technology.

Rick Duvoisin, a plant technician, said PGV has made huge strides in its 15 years – in technology and in acceptance.

“People are much more accepting,” said Duvoisin, who has been working on the project since before it was operational.

Duvoisin recalled the days when residents and anti-geothermal activists chained themselves to fences and feared for their health and the island’s environment.

Those fears likely stemmed from a previous plant that released residual exhaust into the air.

The separation system, where steam and geothermal fluids are separated before being sent to the turbines to create electricity at Puna Geothermal Venture.

The separation system, where steam and geothermal fluids are separated before being sent to the turbines to create electricity at Puna Geothermal Venture.

“Our plant is closed-loop,” Duvoisin said, with five production wells drawing hot steam from beneath Kilauea Volcano’s East Rift Zone and three injection wells pumping the steam back into the earth. 

 The plant, the state’s only commercial geothermal facility, sits on two acres in 500 acres leased from Lyman Estate. It employs 30 full-time employees and contributes more than $3 million a year in payroll revenues.

PGV has developed an international reputation as a successful, clean, reliable and stable power source.

“Most people don’t even know we are here,” he said. “We have people from China, Japan, Germany, all over the world who are excited to come to the Big Island and visit a geothermal plant, teachers from Oahu bring their science classes every year, but people on the Big Island say ‘I thought you shut down.'”

PGV may have built an international reputation, but it still has not fulfilled its potential, he said.

“There’s enough geothermal right here on the Big Island to power the whole state,” Duvoisin said. “It’s steady, it’s there 24 hours.”

Duvoisin said challenges for storage and transmission still must be addressed.

Lucien Y. Bronicki, Chairman and Chief Technology Officer for Ormat Technologies, Inc.

Lucien Y. Bronicki, Chairman and Chief Technology Officer for Ormat Technologies, Inc.

HELCO president Jay Ignacio agreed that technology needs to catch up, but HELCO already is negotiating with PGV for an additional 8 megawatts beginning late next year.

HELCO, as the retailer, already has a contract to buy 30 megawatts of baseload renewable energy from wholesaler PGV, which has permits to double that eventually.

“This facility is beyond an experiment. They’ve been good to work with,” Ignacio said. “Going from 30 percent to a higher number poses technical challenges. We now have political will to move forward.”

The 30-megawatt contract is tied to oil prices, Ignacio said, but any additional renewable energy contracts will be de-coupled from the cost of oil.

The idea of harnessing geothermal energy on the Big Island dates to 1881, when King David Kalakaua envisioned using the island’s volcanoes to produce electricity to power street lights across the entire state.

“We consider this geothermal source a gift to be used wisely,” said Mike Kaleikini, plant manager. “It’s been an exciting journey and it looks a lot brighter.”

— Find out more:

Puna Geothermal Venture: www.punageothermalventure.com

Hawaii Electric Light Company: www.helcohi.com

An electric car on display at the PGV anniversary celebration.

An electric car on display at the PGV anniversary celebration.

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