Hawaii lawmakers to consider indigenous geothermal proposals

Hawaii Independent Staff

HONOLULU—Hawaii lawmakers are considering a proposed business model for the development of geothermal energy as a statewide resource for electrical production.

Presentations will be made on a “Native-to-Native” business model, which recognizes indigenous stewardship of sustainable projects, such as geothermal power.

On Hawaii Island, the Puna Geothermal Venture located about 21 miles south of Hilo provides about 30 percent of the island’s electricity demand. The facility is situated along the Lower East Rift Zone of the Kilauea Volcano. At the Puna Geothermal Venture, geothermal fluid is brought to the surface through production wells, which tap into the resource at a depth of almost a mile. The steam, along with its non-condensable gases, is routed to the power plant and used to produce electricity.

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According to the U.S. Department of Energy, geothermal is a source of clean energy that can be extracted without burning a fossil fuel such as coal, gas, or oil. Geothermal fields produce only about one-sixth of the carbon dioxide that a relatively clean natural-gas-fueled power plant produces, and very little if any, of the nitrous oxide or sulfur-bearing gases. Binary plants, which are closed cycle operations, release essentially no emissions.

Geothermal energy is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Geothermal power plants have average availabilities of 90 percent or higher, compared to about 75 percent for coal plants.

Logistics to consider in the different kinds of geothermal power plants include: the amount of water needed, geological sites, initial expenses for drilling and construction, and disposal of water and other byproducts.

The joint informational briefing takes place on Thursday, July 7 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. in Conference Room 325 at the State Capitol. Members of the community are invited to attend the hearing, but no public testimony will be accepted.

Sponsoring Committees for the forum include the Senate’s Committee’s on Energy and Environment; Water, Land and Housing; and Hawaiian Affairs. House of Representative Committees participating will be Energy and Environmental Protection; Water, Land and Ocean Resources; and Hawaiian Affairs. Senator Mike Gabbard, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment, and Representative Denny Coffman, chair of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection, will lead the discussion.

Individuals and Organizations that will be making presentations at the session include the Innovations Development Group, Mililani Trask of the Indigenous Consultants, and the chairs of the Hawaii Geothermal Working Group.