Categorized | Business, Featured

Big Island Carbon breaks ground on $20M plant

 

Kahu Danny Akaka Jr. blows the conch shell Thursday, April 23 during the groundbreaking ceremony of Big Island Carbon.

Kahu Danny Akaka Jr. blows the conch shell Thursday, April 23 during the groundbreaking ceremony of Big Island Carbon.

Story and photos by Karin Stanton/Hawaii247.com Contributing Editor

Big Island Carbon broke ground on its new plant in Kawaihae that will turn out high quality granular activated carbon and biofuel.

The plant, which is expected to be operating by year’s end, marries agriculture and high technology by burning macadamia nut shells in a specially built kiln to produce the charcoal.

Big Island Carbon CEO Rick Vidgen

Big Island Carbon CEO Rick Vidgen

Thursday’s ground breaking ceremony was attended by Big Island Carbon CEO Rick Vidgen was joined by Gov. Linda Lingle, Mayor Billy Kenoi, DHHL Chairman Micah Kane and Tyler Crabtree, representing Denham Capital, the Houston-based private equity firm that is funding the endeavor.

“This project is important on so many levels,” Lingle said. “It’s beneficial to the whole state. This lifts my spirit and the spirit of the entire state.”

Lingle noted mac nut farmers and processors typically had to pay to dispose of the shells now can sell the raw material to Big Island Carbon.

The governor also said the 100 construction jobs and 30 full-time skilled positions at the plant are a valuable addition to the island.

“t’s not just 30 jobs, it’s 30 families who will have a livelihood and can live a good life on the island,” she said. “We need to move away from land development toward human capital.”

Lingle also praised Vidgen for his vision and perseverance in putting together Big Island Carbon, including attracting a mainland investor.

“That Denham Capital is investing says a lot. It sends a message to others who are thinking of investing in Hawaii,” she said, especially in innovative, high tech areas.

Gov. Linda Lingle speaks at the ground breaking ceremony Thursday, April 23 of Big Island Carbon in Kawaihae.

Gov. Linda Lingle speaks at the ground breaking ceremony Thursday, April 23 of Big Island Carbon in Kawaihae.

Vidgen said he is committed to using local resources whenever possible, from the mac nut shells to working with DHHL to train plant workers. Hiring is expected to begin in October.

The company has supply agreements in place with two of the biggest mac nut producers on the island and already has about 12,000 tons piled up on site and ready to be converted.

“This is end of the beginning. Now it’s just a matter of making sure the critical parts are in order,” Vidgen said. “We look forward to beginning actual production following the construction phase.” 

Vidgen said he expects the activation kiln and char reactor to arrive on the Big Island this summer, while the boiler and turbine are almost complete.

The company has a 50-year lease with Department of Hawaiian Home Lands on 13 acres of  in Kaie Hana Industrial Park.

“Our endeavor fits well into the state’s energy goals and into DHHL’s energy policy, which includes facilitating the use of diverse renewable energy resources,” Vidgen said.

Kane said the collaboration with Big Island Carbon is an example of how DHHL can play a role in getting Hawaii off fossil fuels.

Activated carbon is used to clean up gas and liquid materials to eliminate pollutants and impurities. It also has pharmaceutical, environmental, military and a variety of other applications, including water filters and gas masks.

The plant also will produce a biofuel, which will be used to power the plant and sold across the island.

The current price for activated carbon is $3.50 to $4 per pound. Vidgen said he expects Big Island Carbon’s product to be superior – and more valuable – to what currently available.

“At the end of the day, we’d really like to make some money off it,” he said. 

Kahu Danny Akaka Jr. performed the traditional Hawaiian site blessing.

 

Kahu Danny Akaka Jr. leads Big Island Carbon CEO Rick Vidgen, Gov. Linda Lingle, Mayor Billy Kenoi and other dignitaries through the traditional Hawaiian blessing.

Kahu Danny Akaka Jr. leads Big Island Carbon CEO Rick Vidgen, Gov. Linda Lingle, Mayor Billy Kenoi and other dignitaries through the traditional Hawaiian blessing.

 

'End of the beginning.'

'End of the beginning.'

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