Army to prepare EIS for proposed biofuel power plant in Hawaii

By Erin Voegele | January 23, 2014

The U.S. Army recently filed a notice in the Federal Register announcing its intent to prepare a joint environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed lease of Army land at Schofield Barracks in Wahiawa, Hawaii, to the Hawaiian Electric Co. for the construction and operation of a 50-megawatt power plant that would operate on a mix of biofuel and diesel.

According to the notice, the Schofield Generating Station Project would be a source of renewable power that would provide an energy security service to Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Army Airfield, and Field Station Kunia if a loss of normal electricity service is lost. Electricity produced at the facility would also help the Army achieve goals of producing renewable energy on its property. The notice also indicates the SGSP would provide a quick-starting facility to help maintain grid stability, provide a power-generating facility at a higher elevation away from coastlines, provide a physically secure facility on a military installation, and make progress toward the stat’s renewable portfolio standard.

The notice indicates the EIS will examine two operating scenarios. The first assumes the SGSP would operate for approximately six hours per day, consuming 8 million gallons of fuel per year. The second assumes the facility would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, consuming 31.5 million gallons of fuel annually. The EIA will also analyze a baseline no action alternative that considers the impact if the SGSP is not built. In addition, it will examine alternatives to the SGSP that could meet the needs of the Army and the Hawaiian Electric Co.

According to information published in the Federal Register, the Army is preparing supporting studies analyzing significant impacts that could occur to air quality, traffic and storm water.

Hawaiian Electric Co. and the Army have been working to develop the project for several years. On Aug. 1, 2012, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission granted Hawaiian Electric Co. a waiver from the Framework for Competitive Bidding to allow discussions and negotiations occur between the company and the Army with regard to the project. The application was filed by Hawaiian Electric Co. on Dec. 27, 2011. Within the approval, the Hawaii PUC identified several questions and concerns that it said must be addressed in an application requesting approval to commit funds to the project.

Hawaiian Electric Co. included a projected development timeline for the facility in its 2013 Integrated Resource Planning Report and Action Plan, which was published in mid-2013.  That plan specifies that the proposed 50 MG SGSP would feature six 8.4-MW reciprocating engine-generator sets and associated equipment.

According to the timeline, an air permit application was filed during the third quarter of 2013. The PUC application is scheduled to be filed during the first quarter of this year. The final EIS is expected to be complete by the third quarter of 2013. Construction on the facility would begin during the third quarter of 2016, with the plant placed into service during the third quarter of 2017.

According to the Federal Register notice, written comments on the EIS will be accepted for 45 days, beginning on Jan. 17. The Army is also scheduled to hold scoping meeting on the EIS in Hawaii in early February. The full notice can be downloaded from the Federal Register website