Idle Hawaiian coal plant to be converted to biomass

By Ryan C. Christiansen
H Honua Bioenergy LLC will be converting an idle coal plant in Pepeekeo, Hawaii, into the H Honua Bioenergy Facility, which will produce 24 megawatts of electricity from locally grown biomass. It will be enough to power approximately 18,000 homes, or approximately 7 percent to 10 percent of the main island's energy demand.

The facility will burn sustainable, locally grown crops and waste biomass, the company said. H Honua Bioenergy expects the plant to stimulate the local forestry and agricultural industries, and also prevent tens of thousands of tons of biomass waste from being deposited into Hawaii County's landfills each year. The conversion is expected to be completed by 2010.

H Honua Bioenergy is co-owned by Ethanol Research Hawaii LLC in Oahu, and MMA Renewable Ventures LLC in San Francisco, a subsidiary of Municipal Mortgage & Equity LLC in Baltimore.

According to MMA Renewable Ventures, the state of Hawaii relies on imported fossil fuels for 90 percent of its energy needs. Therefore, local support for the project has been overwhelming with more than 95 percent of the area's residents having signed a petition in support of the facility.

"Like its name, which means to come out of the earth,' H Honua turns to the land to effectively and sustainably meet Hawaii's power needs," said Dan KenKnight, director of H Honua Bioenergy. "Projects like the H Honua Bioenergy Facility play an important role in shifting Hawaii's energy mix away from imported petroleum toward renewable sources."

The H Honua Bioenergy Facility is the first bioenergy project in MMA Renewable Ventures' portfolio of solar power, wind power, bioenergy and energy efficiency projects.