PPA approved for Hawaii biomass power plant

By Erin Voegele | December 31, 2013

The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission has approved a power purchase agreement (PPA) between the Hawaii Electric Light Co. Inc. (HELCO) and Hu Honua Bioenergy LLC for the Hu Honua biomass project. The approval was handed down on Dec. 20.

According to documentation published by the PUC, the proposed 21.5-megawatt (MW) Hu Honua plant is to be located on the site of the former Hilo Coast Power Co. in Pepeekeo, Hawaii. The history of the site dates back to 1857, when a sugar plantation was developed on the land. The sugar operation changed ownership several times. Sugar production on the site ended in 1994, but an onsite power plant operated through 2004.

PUC documents note that under the PPA, Hu Honua will refurbish the power plant, which was built in 1972. The facility was originally fired with sugarcane bagasse, but operated as a coal-fired power plant under the Hilo Coast Processing Co. when sugar production ceased in 1994. The facility produced power using coal for a decade. According to the PPA approval, Hu Honua will refurbish the power plant structure, the boiler, ductwork and auxiliary equipment. In addition, the boiler will be modernized with updated instrumentation and control system. It will also be retrofitted with modern emissions control equipment. The approval specifies the project will also include the construction of a new fuel yard and new interconnection switching station.

According to information published to Hu Honua’s website, the plant will take in locally-grown biomass, such as eucalyptus, as feedstock. Once operational, the plant is expected to meet approximately 10 percent of the power demand on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Hu Honua has estimated the project will generate approximately 80 to 100 jobs during the refurbishment phase and 28 to 30 jobs once operations start. The project is expected to support an additional 100 indirect jobs in the timber and related industries.