Big Island geothermal feedback sought

June 22, 2011 8:16 pm 3 comments

Puna Geothermal VentureHawaii Electric Light Company is seeking information to determine the best way to pursue geothermal power development on Hawaii Island.

In a request for information (RFI) issued today, the utility is seeking input from stakeholders including potential geothermal developers and interested landowners on next steps that take into account the renewable energy goals and clean energy policy of Hawaii within the state’s unique community, cultural, historical, and environmental context.

The full RFI is available online. Questions or comments may be submitted via the email listed on the website and answers useful to all stakeholders will be posted online as well. Responses to the RFI are requested by August 31, 2011.

“Geothermal power is already a proven source of firm renewable power that can play an even larger role in Hawaii’s clean energy future,” said Jay Ignacio, president of Hawaii Electric Light Company. “This is a first step and with growing interest and discussions around the state we must consider the best approach because developing geothermal is unique.”

Geothermal development differs from other renewable energy projects such as wind, solar, biofuel and biomass, waste-to-energy or hydro-electric. Community and cultural consultation are a critical part of the process. Typically, a geothermal project must begin with resource identification, resource evaluation, and drilling one or more test wells. These high-cost procedures must precede a formal project proposal. A resource verified through an exploratory well must be found before further steps, including production well drilling and plant construction can begin.

The RFI focuses on the early phase of geothermal development. It seeks:

  • Information from those with specialized knowledge or experience in geothermal development, including well drilling for resource assessment, financing, partnerships (including with landowners), Hawaii community and cultural considerations, mineral rights, mining leases, permits and approvals.
  • To identify interested parties willing to join in discussions regarding geothermal power development on Hawaii Island to share information and propose cost-effective solutions for a viable and efficient geothermal power development process.
  • To discover collaborations and efficiencies for geothermal development, including establishing a geothermal resource sub-zone (GRS) in West Hawaii and exploratory drilling to find new resources in that area.
  • To recognize culturally sensitive geothermal development pathways and appropriate strategies for building community partnerships and acceptance, including possible community give-backs and benefits.
  • To reduce and stabilize electricity prices on Hawaii by de-linking the cost of geothermal power from fossil fuel prices.

The request for information is not a request for proposals for specific projects nor a solicitationfor development or construction, exploration or testing for a geothermal project.

More than 30 percent of electricity on Hawaii Island is generated from renewable resources, including hydro, wind, distributed photovoltaic, concentrating solar and geothermal. Puna Geothermal Venture, a subsidiary of Ormat Technologies, operates a 30 megawatt (MW) capacity geothermal plant in East Hawaii. A proposed purchase power agreement between HELCO and PGV for an additional eight MW is now before the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

3 Comments

  • Geothermal power results from the environmentally risky practice known as hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Fresh water resources are taken from aquifers in the ground, filled with chemicals, and injected back into the ground to release the natural gas deposits beneath the surface. As a result, the ‘clean’ energy contaminates groundwater. The ultimate enviornmental cost of fracking is currently being debated by scientists.

    • I am not certain whether hydraulic fracturing is required for geothermal wells, but geothermal power and natural gas production are entirely separate technologies.

      Natural gas is a hydrocarbon fossil fuel (albeit a very efficient and clean-burning fuel), whereas geothermal energy simply seeks to heat water using the earth’s elevated underground temperatures.

      Your ground water contamination concern is obviously an important one. As you can see from the excellent USGS article (link below) much of Hawaii’s fresh water table is ABOVE sea-level:

      http://hi.water.usgs.gov/publications/pubs/fs/fs126-00.pdf

      Further, the first Hawaiian water well was drilled in 1879. That touched off a water well drilling frenzy. See Oahu Board of Water Supply site:

      http://www.hbws.org/cssweb/display.cfm?sid=1106

      Consequently, there are literally thousands of old wells drilled through the precious fresh water lens that provides most of Hawaii’s tap water. Below that lens, is brackish and salt water. Only the lighter-specific gravity of the fresh water prevents it from mixing with the saltier water below. Even a poorly designed geothermal well wouldn’t change those physics.

      Also, new geothermal wells would be drilled to 1,000′s of feet below sea level. Obviously, they would be the subject of strict environmental impact studies and would be done much more carefully than their predecessor water wells of the early 20th century.

      God knows, those early water wells were a bad thing, and the proposed geothermal prospects may not be “all good, no bad”, but Hawaii burns about 30% of its imported oil and coal to generate electricity. Wouldn’t it be much better to generate that power using local-sustanable geothermal (or wind, biomass, solar, etc.) technologies than bringing it in by the tanker / barge-load?

      Finally, take a look at what has already been done on the Big Island (Puna Geothermal):

      http://www.punageothermalventure.com/News/55/hawaiis-geothermal-story

      With Aloha,
      Mark

  • Erica, I think that you are confusing geothermal power, which uses the heat of the earth to generate electricity, and the process used to harvest natural gas. They are very different.

    To better understand what a geothermal power plant is and does, see http://www.geothermal.org/virtualgeo.html.

Leave a Reply


Other News

  • Technology Tourism HVCB Seeks Digital Marketing Coordinator

    HVCB Seeks Digital Marketing Coordinator

    The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB), tasked with creating “sustainable, diversified, travel destination demand” for the Hawaiian Islands, is seeking a Digital Marketing Coordinator. “This person’s main job function will be to generate great Hawaii content for our various communication channels – gohawaii.com, our blog, enewsletters and social,” explains Kara Imai, the HVCB’s Senior Director of Digital Marketing. “They should have excellent writing skills and also be able to recognize and manage other good freelance content creators.” While it’s […]

    Read more →
  • Education Featured Windward District’s Science Fair Marks 28th Year

    Windward District’s Science Fair Marks 28th Year

    More than 200 students from 31 Windward Oahu schools will present over 160 projects at the annual Windward District’s Science and Engineering Fair.

    Setup begins today at Windward Community College, with judging tomorrow morning and displays open to the public in the afternoon. Winners will be announced on Saturday.

    This year marks the event’s 28th year, and the three-day program is organized by vice principals from schools spanning from Waimanalo to Sunset Beach. In addition to the competition, it offers sixth- through tenth-graders several breakout sessions and presentations by college professors as a way to inspire Hawaii’s future scientists.

    Read more →
  • Art Education Featured Updates Sheet metal roses return for Valentine’s Day

    Sheet metal roses return for Valentine’s Day

    The annual “Forever Rose” sale by the Sheet Metal and Plastics Program at HCC started as a bet over 15 years ago.

    “An apprenticeship student challenged me to make a rose out of sheet metal,” recalls Danny Aiu, Associate Professor of the program. “That night with a strip of sheet metal I molded a rose with my hands. Today, our students apply their skills by operating a plasma cutter, chemicals and other tools used in the trade to create each rose one by one.”

    Read more →
  • Environment Featured Science Hawaii lab finds dramatic shift in Pacific ecosystem

    Hawaii lab finds dramatic shift in Pacific ecosystem

    The Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) has enabled scientists to determine that a long-term shift in nitrogen content in the Pacific Ocean has occurred as a result of climate change. Researchers observed overall nitrogen fixation in the North Pacific Ocean has increased by about 20 percent since the mid 1800s and this long-term change appears to be continuing today, according to a study published recently in the journal, Nature.

    Using chemical information locked in organic skeletal layers, the team used these ancient deep corals as detailed recorders of changes at the base of the open Pacific food web over the last 1,000 years. This represents the first detailed biogeochemical records for the planet’s largest contiguous ecosystem. This type of sample is only available using deep-diving submersibles, such as those operated by HURL.

    Read more →
  • Environment Featured Publicity Science Television ‘Voice of the Sea’ TV series debuts in January

    ‘Voice of the Sea’ TV series debuts in January

    A new television show highlighting ocean and coastal scientists and cultural experts from Hawaii and the Pacific will debut on January 5, 2014. “Voice of the Sea” will be broadcast on on KVFE (Channel 5 and 1005) on Sundays at 6:00 p.m.

    The show is hosted by Dr. Kanesa Duncan Seraphin, world paddleboard champion, shark researcher, and science education expert.

    Dr. Seraphin, director of the University of Hawaii Sea Grant Center of Excellence in Marine Science Education and associate professor at the Curriculum Research & Development Group in the College of Education at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, has traveled across the Pacific to bring stories of relevance to Hawaii. Each half-hour episode profiles local science and cultural celebrities and presents thought-provoking information in an exciting, original, reality-based way.

    Read more →
  • Art People Publicity HIFF names new Executive Director

    HIFF names new Executive Director

    As part of the Hawaii International Film Festival’s (HIFF) business continuity strategy, the HIFF Board of Directors announces that, effective January 1, 2014, current HIFF Executive Director, Chuck Boller, will transition to a new Director Emeritus role and Deputy Director, Robert Lambeth, will transition to Executive Director. Designed to support HIFF’s long-term film exhibition and education strategies, Mr. Boller will now focus primarily on fundraising and establishing a new HIFF Foundation. HIFF Board President and Chairman, Owen Ogawa, said: “Chuck […]

    Read more →
  • Featured History Television Tourism Battleship Missouri Screens Special ‘Five-0′ Episode

    Battleship Missouri Screens Special ‘Five-0′ Episode

    Starting this Saturday, December 7 through December 13, visitors to the Battleship Missouri Memorial will enjoy a special sneak preview of the ‘Hawaii Five-0′ episode that will later air nationwide on Friday, December 13, 9PM ET/PT, on the CBS Television Network.

    Titled ‘Ho‘onani Makuakane’ (‘Honor Thy Father’), the episode focuses on the attempted murder of a Pearl Harbor veteran that leads ‘Five-0′ to use decades old evidence to investigate a deadly crime committed within the internment camps holding Americans of Japanese ancestry on Oahu during World War II. A remembrance ceremony using actual World War II veterans was filmed at the Battleship Missouri Memorial.

    The ‘Hawaii Five-0′ episode in its entirety will be projected onto a large video screen in the Missouri’s educational classroom, which is air-conditioned and located one deck below the main deck next to the Mess Hall.

    Read more →
  • Government Media Television State blasts ‘American Jungle’ shoot in Hawaii

    State blasts ‘American Jungle’ shoot in Hawaii

    In response to The History Channel’s new series “American Jungle,” the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), as well as representatives of hunting, animal protection and film agencies in Hawaii, find the series’ depiction of hunting activities on the Island of Hawaii to be inaccurate, offensive, and in some cases, potentially illegal.

    The DLNR Division of Conservation Resource Enforcement (DOCARE) is currently conducting an investigation into whether several of DLNR’s rules and regulations may have been broken during the filming of the program. Activities such as night hunting both on public and private land, are illegal under Hawaii Revised Statues §183D-27 and Hawaii Administrative Rules §13-123-6. The Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), which oversees DLNR’s hunting program, denied a permit request last spring for the production to film on state forest lands.

    Read more →