Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 8:43 a.m., Sunday, April 1, 2007

Kaua'i utility cooperative will buy biomass energy

By Garden Island Staff (Kaua'i, Hawai'i)

The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative signed a long-term purchase power agreement last week with Green Energy Team, LLC.

The 20-year agreement enables KIUC to purchase power from Green Energy's proposed 6.4 megawatt biomass-to-energy facility, which will use agricultural waste to generate power.

The green project was proposed in response to "KIUC's Energy Only Request for Proposals" in 2005.

"The co-op board and management are committed to renewable energy efforts," said Dennis Esaki, KIUC's chairman of the board, in a press release. "There are several key member benefits incorporated in this agreement including quick implementation of a well-planned and formulated project with appropriate technology. There are few unknowns, and substantial economic and environmental wins for our members."

"KIUC anticipates the cost of power from biomass will escalate less rapidly than the cost of fuel oil, reducing our members' risk to oil cost volatility," said KIUC Chief Financial Officer David Bissell, in the release. "Member moneys normally sent off-island to foreign countries will flow instead to the local agricultural industry on Kaua'i."

KIUC President and CEO Randy Hee says that member benefits will be significant. "Kaua'i's renewable energy efforts are largely tied to our agricultural land resources. This project provides renewable energy from trees grown on Kaua'i, provides jobs and keeps our Garden Island green," Hee said, in the release.

Green Energy Hawai'i, LLC, parent company to Green Energy Team, LLC, has spent more than three years researching various technologies to find the best solution for Kaua'i, with energy sustainability as its central vision. After consulting with renewable energy experts Black and Veatch, Green Energy targeted gasification/thermal oxidation as the cleanest and most appropriate technology for Kaua'i, states the release.

In this process, wood chips are slowly heated until volatile gases are released into an oxygen-deprived environment. This gas is then mixed with air for efficient combustion at high temperature, which leaves little or no waste such as ash, creosote or stack emissions. The BTE facility will be designed to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Health air emission requirements.

The BTE will be utilizing locally grown trees and biomass, lessening Kaua'i's dependence on imported foreign oil. Supplier, Hawaiian Mahogany, a Kaua'i firm, leases approximately 3,600 acres and has planted more than 600,000 trees. The bulk of their plantings use two species of eucalyptus, which provide high-grade quality, cabinet grade wood. Eucalyptus is intermixed with another tree, albizia, which provides nitrogen and other nutrients. By using albizia, Hawaiian Mahogany has dramatically cut the need for commercial fertilizers by 95 percent, which is both economically and environmentally advantageous.

At the completion of the project, scheduled for 2010, KIUC will be able to purchase approximately 10 percent of KIUC's total energy supply.

For more Kaua'i news, visit The Garden