As the world watched Kīlauea’s impressive display, oceanography professor and C-MORE director David Karl and colleagues were also keenly tracking satellite data showing the development of an algal bloom near the location where lava was entering the ocean off Hawaiʻi Island. A team was dispatched on the research cruise to examine the composition of the algal bloom and the nutrient cycling that supported its production.
The researchers confirmed elevated concentrations of silica, iron and phosphorus in seawater surrounding the area, as was expected because the lava from Kīlauea is rich in those elements, among others. As often occurs in science, the fieldwork generated further questions, in particular about the production and losses of nutrients associated with lava-seawater interactions. An enigmatic finding showed that near the ocean entry nitrate, a limiting nutrient for most Hawaiian waters, also increased despite there being negligible nitrogen in lava.
To assess whether nitrate could come from lava interacting with air and seawater, the research team collaborated with artists from the UH Mānoa Department of Art and Art History to create a synthetic lava ocean entry.
The scientists provided the art team with basaltic rock that was representative of the recent eruption. The artists, led by art instructor Linda Yamamoto, melted the rock to approximately 1200 degrees Celsius in a furnace typically used for bronze casting, then expertly poured the molten material into stainless steel beakers containing seawater.
“This project truly demonstrates the rich opportunities available at liberal arts educational institutions for multi-disciplinary collaborative research,” said Gaye Chan, chair and professor in the Department of Art and Art History. “The department is very enthusiastic about this project and looks forward to future collaborations.”
“We wanted to take a closer look at the reactions that happened in this dynamic setting,” said Sam Wilson, oceanography researcher and chief scientist for the expedition. “In particular, how lava causes changes in essential nutrients such as phosphate, silicate and nitrate that affect the growth of phytoplankton in the oceans. Linda and her student, Matt Adams, were wonderful collaborators and very helpful in setting up and executing the experiments.”
“Although we are still trying to determine the source for nitrate at Kīlauea’s ocean entry, we have gained a better understanding of the origin and evolution of algal blooms near active volcanic islands,” said Rhea Foreman, a research scientist in C-MORE involved in the cruise and experiment. “Further, this investigation provides clues about early Earth and the evolution of life, as one way to get vital nutrients into the ocean is through seawater-lava interactions.”
HILO — More than 30 residents of a lava-locked kipuka in lower Puna drove across the lava channel from last year’s Kilauea eruption Monday to return to their homes.
Using a road graded over the lava channel by Puna Geothermal Venture, authorized residents can drive to and from a subdivision south of Highway 132 that was cut off by lava during the eruption.
The road is an offshoot of one that was cut across the lava channel in December in order to restore access to PGV. While only PGV employees and suppliers have been able to use the road, now residents who signed an extensive waiver are permitted access to the roadway, although only at times designated by PGV.
Mike Kaleikini, senior director of Hawaii affairs for PGV, said the road will be open for ingress from 8-11 a.m. and 4-7 p.m. Leaving the kipuka via the road will be permissible at any time, and Kaleikini said the hours of access might be changed in the coming weeks based on how traffic plays out this week.
Access to the road is controlled by a checkpoint located just west of the intersection between Highway 132 and Pohoiki Road, that will remain staffed 24/7, Kaleikini said. Blank waivers can be obtained at the checkpoint.
Only a smattering of vehicles traversed the lava Monday morning, although Kaleikini said 28 waivers covering 74 residents plus 11 minors have been signed. By 4 p.m. Monday, Kaleikini said 32 people in 22 vehicles had been checked in.
“And that’s pretty good because we have 27 vehicles registered on our lists,” Kaleikini said. “So only five vehicles haven’t showed up.”
According to Hawaii County officials, 56 properties with structures remain in the kipuka.
“It feels good, it feels like coming back home,” said David Zuhars, one of the first residents to drive across the approximately 3/4-mile-long road.
Zuhars said he returned to his home in the kipuka before, but only through a taxing hike over the lava. Being able to access his home by vehicle will allow him to return full-time, after staying at friends’ homes and in a disaster shelter for more than three months.
As Zuhars’ vehicle lumbered across the rough gravel, steam rose from the lava rock, the remains of the previous night’s rain evaporating in the light of the morning sun. Kaleikini said some days, the steam is so thick “you can’t see past a foot in front of you.”
Kaleikini said PGV can temporarily close the road at its discretion to ensure residents’ safety, such as during periods of extremely poor visibility. Furthermore, during times of high traffic, Kaleikini said residents will have to be patient, as the road is too narrow to accommodate opposing traffic lanes.
At the other end of the lava, residents Harald Fischer and Debbie Kalaluhi waited to greet incoming vehicles. The pair returned to their respective homes in the kipuka earlier by other means, but also signed waivers authorizing them to use the road.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for this,” Kahaluhi said. “It’s heart-racing to see people driving back here.”
Fischer said he has remained within the kipuka for months, assisting other residents with transporting property across the lava and securing their properties. His dirt bike, the only vehicle available to him in the kipuka, accumulated more than 500 miles of travel within the kipuka alone since the eruption.
“We had to airlift all our possessions and our dogs back in here,” Fischer said.
“It’s good to be free to come and go now,” he added.
Kahaluhi said she hopes the restoration of access will lead to the county clearing Highway 132 of lava, which has been a widely requested project for months.
Until then, however, Kahaluhi said she is glad to be able to come and go as she pleases.
“Going to the store, going to the bank — we couldn’t do that before, we took that for granted,” Kahaluhi said.
Residents of a lava-locked kipuka off Highway 132 will soon have a road home.
During a meeting Friday evening in Pahoa, Puna Geothermal Venture officials provided residents and farmers with waivers to sign so they can use a “pioneer road” the power plant built over the lava channel from last year’s Kilauea eruption.
The road connects to a nearby rural subdivision, through which residents can access the rest of the highway. Hawaii County officials say there are 56 properties with structures that remain in the kipuka.
“I’m very glad PGV is working with the community and helping get on with their lives and provide access,” said Sam Bradley, whose mother owns 7.5 acres in the kipuka. “It’s all we can ask for.”
Mike Kaleikini, senior director of Hawaii affairs for PGV, said it could be open to residents and immediate family members as soon as April 1. PGV will provide security, and days and hours the road will be accessible will be set.
Jordan Hara, PGV plant manager, said restrictions will be relaxed to allow in more people, such as contractors, over time.
“We feel for you and we want to help you as much as possible,” he told residents as he distributed waiver forms.
Mike Gornik, one of the kipuka residents assisting PGV with coordinating access, said completed waivers can be dropped off at Savio Realty in Pahoa. He said a stack of blank forms also will be provided there.
PGV leases the land owned by Kapoho Land and Development Co.
Lono Lyman, company manager, said the kipuka is valuable land for farmers. He called it a “little bread basket.”
“We want to get our neighbors back,” Lyman said.
“It’s time to move forward, it’s time to work together, it’s time to set aside differences.”
The county is seeking to build a temporary road over lava-covered portions of the highway, which totals 3 miles, by Oct. 5. That’s the deadline set by Federal Highway Administration for it to provide full funding, estimated at $1.2 million to $1.4 million.
FHA also will pay 80 percent of full restoration of the highway, estimated to cost $50 million.
The County Council will consider a bill next week to add the project to the budget.
However, whether the highway is fully restored depends on an “alternative study” that should be done in the summer.
David Yamamoto, county Public Works director, said that’s a requirement set by the federal agency.
There also remains isolated homes off of Pohoiki Road and other locations.
Diane Ley, county Research and Development director, said restoring Pohoiki Road would be the next priority after Highway 132.
The county built a temporary road over some lava-covered portions of Highway 137 between Opihikao and Pohoiki last December.
As the county shifts to long-term recovery, she said questions the community will be asked include whether certain areas should be restored and whether property owners in some areas should be bought out.
The months-long eruption destroyed more than 700 homes and covered nearly 14 square miles.
“There are big decisions we as a community, we as a government got to work toward,” Ley said.
She added recovery will be a five- to 10-year process.
“We want to dream the dreams and then fulfill the dreams,” Ley said.
Kaleikini said a website will be launched soon to address road access.
He said people can contact him for access forms and waivers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Representatives of Puna Geothermal Venture held a community meeting Friday evening at the Pāhoa High School cafeteria, where they offered to help lava-locked residents regain access to their properties.
Ormat, the parent company of PGV, is planning to move forward with plans to resume operations on the lower East Rift Zone of Kīlauea, where the 2018 eruption of the volcano forced the company to cease operations. Lava partially inundated the facility and blocked access to the plant.
During Friday’s meeting, Ormat’s director of Hawaiian Affairs, Mike Kaleikini, and PGV plant manager Jordan Hara, gave updates on the facility recovery. The presentation included a short video documenting the eruption and the effort to cut new access roads in the wake of the volcanic event.
Hawaiʻi County officials and HELCO representatives were also on hand. Lono Lyman of the Kapoho Land & Development Company also spoke.
The topic that got the most attention was PGV’s offer to help residents access their lands cut off by the lava flow.
Kaleikini said the forms have been completed. By signing the paperwork and providing other information, residents will be able to use PGV’s temporary roads over the lava to get home. “We will need to confirm that you do indeed have a residence” on the other side of the lava flow, Kaleikini said.
Hara talked about the logistics of the access plan with interested residents after the presentations ended.
There were concerns that the meeting might be interrupted by residents opposed to the geothermal facility, but those concerns never materialized.
A public meeting will be held Friday night regarding Puna Geothermal Venture, although scientists have already answered one set of pressing questions.
Puna Geothermal Venture, or PGV, shutdown operations during the 2018 eruption of Kīlauea Volcano on the lower East Rift Zone. The company has not been back online since. However, now that Kīlauea is quiet, PGV-parent company Ormat is working to bring the power plant back to life.
While PGV and its employees are looking forward to getting back to business, some in the community are not happy about it. A segment of the Puna population is opposed to the industry in their backyard, saying the facility poses a hazard due to its close proximity to residential neighborhoods.
Some even wonder if the geothermal facility had something to do with the 2018 eruption.
“So, now we are here in 2019, PGV’s enhanced fracking by forced reinjection for the last 30 years has blown out the side of the island by eroding the rift zone under Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens,” wrote a Sara Steiner in a letter to several news publications and lawmakers, “yet for some reason PGV thinks the State and County are just going to sit back as usual and let them operate as nothing happened.”
“Why won’t our elected officials, civil defense, HVO scientists or permitting department heads look at the reality of the problem that geothermal is not safe use on an unstable active volcanic hot spot where there is human populations all around?” Steiner asked in another letter.
Following the recent Magnitude 5.5 earthquake on Hawaiʻi Island, Steiner penned another letter. This time, she asked scientists a direct set of questions (below).
“With PGV trying to insinuate itself back into Puna with certain trusted government agency blessings, it is ripe for HVO to make that assessment now and please do it as if your kids live in Leilani Estates, because it is time to think of the people and the environment first and foremost, not greedy fracking polluters trying to hide under the guise of renewable energy,” Steiner wrote.
On Thursday, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory responded with an email, and copied everyone listed as a recipient of Steiner’s initial email. Saying “here’s some science-based answers to your questions,” the scientists addressed her questions (in bold) one-by-one:
So, it would be really nice to hear from HVO about what happens to our underground rift zone when billions of gallons of cool chemical soup is reinjected under pressure for 30 years???
We are not sure what you mean by “billions of gallons of cool chemical soup.” Magma is certainly not characterized that way, and we don’t know of anything else that has been injected into the ground in that volume for 30 years.
Since you mention PGV in your last statement, perhaps this question is referring to geothermal drilling or fluid injection. If so, it is unlikely that PGV is injecting fluids at high enough pressures or volumes to affect the rift zone. If not, please clarify what you’re asking and we will try to answer.
Could it erode holes or fracture the ground so much that the lave sprang forth?
This question seems to suggest that you are attributing the 2018 lower East Rift Zone (LERZ) eruption to PGV. If not, please clarify what you are asking. If so, please note the following:
(1) The magma that eventually erupted in Puna was injected into the LERZ from Kīlauea’s summit and upper parts of the East Rift Zone near Puʻu ʻŌʻō hours-to-days before the LERZ eruption began. This NOAA animation depicts the earthquakes that occurred between April 30 and May 6, 2018. The earthquakes reflect the migration of magma from the summit/upper East Rift Zone to the LERZ just before and after the eruption began on May 3—and clearly show that the LERZ eruption did not originate with the PGV development.
(2) PGV is located on the East Rift Zone because a small hydrothermal resource heated by past eruptions is found there. Prior to the 2018 eruption, the most recent LERZ eruptions in Puna were in the 1790s (Lava Tree State Monument), 1840 (Kaohe Homesteads through Nanawale Estates), 1955 (Steam vent area along hwy 130 to Halekamahina), and 1960 (Kapoho)—well before PGV started drilling.
(3) Kīlauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It was inevitable that, at some point, the Puʻu ʻŌʻō eruption would end and another eruption would begin on the volcano—and based on past activity, it was known that the next eruption could be located within the upper, middle, or lower part of the East Rift Zone. It just so happened that the 2018 eruption was on the LERZ.
(4) There is evidence of eruptive vents along the LERZ, both north and south of Leilani Estates. Unfortunately, many of the volcanic features indicative of the active rift—craters, cinder cones, steaming vents—were/are disguised by lush vegetation or have been removed by quarrying or grading, leading to a false sense of security in those areas. It was a matter of “when”—not “if”—another eruption would occur on Kīlauea’s LERZ as indicated by Zone 1 on the USGS lava-flow hazard zone map.
(5) The 2018 fissure is within Kīlauea Volcano’s lower East Rift Zone (LERZ) and was located between the 1955 and ~1790 fissures. Because of these (and other) earlier eruptions, the East Rift Zone was rated as Zone 1 on the Lava-Flow Hazard Map for Hawaiʻi Island. Zone 1 is defined as: “Includes the summits and rift zones of Kīlauea and Mauna Loa where vents have been repeatedly active in historic time.” These areas are the most dangerous because all, or nearly all, erupted lava first emerges from the ground within Zone 1. For more info on lava-flow hazards, please see this.
In a straight line of 24 fissures in front of the frackers??
We don’t know what you mean by “frackers.” But to address the “straight line of 24 fissures” part of your question … Vents that erupted in 2018 opened along the lower East Rift Zone, which is a more-or-less linear structure, so it is no surprise that the fissures erupted along a more-or-less “straight line.” This “line” of 2018 fissures passed south of the PGV property.
Also … If you look at a map of the fissures that erupted on the LERZ in 1790, 1840, 1955, and 1960 (before PGV started), you will see that they, too, are in a similarly straight line (for example, here).
With more intensity than any recorded rift zone eruption???
While the 2018 LERZ eruption had some of the highest eruption rates ever measured on Kīlauea, they were likely similar to the 1840 eruption in this same area (Kaohe Homesteads through Nanawale Estates). Kīlauea has been capable of producing voluminous eruptions since it formed.
Which then drained all the lava in the LERZ storage units in 4 short months????
There is no evidence that “all the lava in the LERZ” drained during the 2018 eruption. Chemical analyses have shown that lava erupted from the initial fissures of the 2018 LERZ eruption had been stored in the rift zone since the 1955 eruption. In other words, not all the magma that moved through the rift zone in 1955 was erupted to the surface. What did not erupt was stored below ground until the recent intrusion of magma “pushed” it to the surface. The same is likely true for the 2018 eruption – it’s possible (even likely) that not all of the magma that intruded the rift zone erupted to the surface in May-August 2018.
The Puna Geothermal Venture meeting will take place from 4-6 p.m. Friday night at the Pāhoa High & Intermediate School cafeteria.
“PGV officials will update the community on the status of the geothermal facility and ability for residents to use the “pioneer road” near the intersection of Highway 132 and Pohoiki Road that PGV cleared to restore access to its lava-locked site,” a media advisory stated. “Representatives from Hawaii Electric Light Co. (HELCO) and the County of Hawaii will also provide updates.”
Puna Geothermal Venture will host a community meeting Friday to address status of restarting the power plant and access through its “pioneer road.”
The meeting is slated for 4-6 p.m. in the Pahoa High and Intermediate School cafeteria.
PGV built the road over the lava channel from last year’s Kilauea eruption to restore access to its site. During the Friday meeting, officials will discuss the ability of residents to use the road to access lava-locked properties.
Representatives from Hawaii Electric Light Co. and Hawaii County also will provide updates.
“Puna Geothermal Venture will take at least 18 months to reopen, should it decide to reopen. PGV, which supplied 30% of Big Island Power, has not considered if it will reopen. Do you support the reopening of PGV?”
Of the respondents, 158 answered “Yes,” and 121 answered “No.”
Rep. San Buenaventura represents Puna, Hawaii. These poll results appeared in her Jan./Feb. 2019 community newsletter.
The owner of a Hawaii geothermal plant that had to close during last year’s eruption of Kilauea Volcano plans to bring the plant back online by the end of the year.
Ormat Technologies CEO Isaac Angel made the statement in company financial results released last week, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.
The 38-megawatt Puna Geothermal Venture plant was taken offline and evacuated soon after the volcano began erupting May 3. Before the eruption it provided nearly a quarter of the electricity used on the Big Island.
Lava destroyed a substation and covered a few geothermal wells during the eruption. It also cut off road access to the power plant. Otherwise the plant was spared significant damage.
Puna Geothermal built a temporary road in December, allowing people and equipment to traverse the hardened lava channel.
The plant still needs service power lines to connect to the Hawaii Electric Light Co. grid in order to test all the equipment. A water well has been constructed to restore water service.
Angel didn’t note any major hurdles preventing the power plant from restarting.
“Initial tests from the geothermal injection wells indicate higher temperatures at the reservoir with no sign of any negative impact on pressure,” he said in the statement. “In light of that, we currently estimate that we will be ready for operation by year end 2019.”
Mayor Kim discussed Puna Geothermal Venture’s plans for powering back up. He said the new road to the geothermal energy conversion plant was built over the lava flows on private property at PGV’s expense.
Ormat Technologies, the owner of Puna Geothermal Venture, plans to bring the 38-megawatt power plant online by the end of the year.
CEO Isaac Angel made that statement in the company’s fourth-quarter and full-year financial results released Tuesday.
The state’s only geothermal power plant, and a major renewable power producer for Hawaii Island, shut down last year during the Kilauea eruption.
Lava destroyed a substation and covered a few geothermal wells, as well as cut off road access to the power plant, but it was otherwise spared significant damage.
PGV built a temporary road in December, allowing people and equipment to traverse the hardened lava channel.
The power plant still needs service power lines to connect the plant to the Hawaii Electric Light Co. grid in order to test all of the equipment, but a water well was constructed to restore water service.
Angel didn’t note any major hurdles preventing the power plant from restarting.
“Initial tests from the geothermal injection wells indicate higher temperatures at the reservoir with no sign of any negative impact on pressure,” he said in the statement. “In light of that, we currently estimate that we will be ready for operation by year end 2019.”
Angel also said insurers are paying for costs of the destroyed property, though not all agree that business interruption coverage started May 2018. He said the company is trying to resolve that disagreement.
Despite the shutdown, Ormat saw revenue increase by 3.8 percent compared with 2017.
Mike Kaleikini, senior director of Hawaii affairs for Ormat, said PGV and its landowner, Kapoho Land Partnership, are still working to open an access road to isolated homes off Highway 132.
He said liability issues need to be resolved first, and that could be done in the next few weeks.
Kaleikini said there as many as 20 people working at the site each day.
“We’re gearing up to bring everybody back,” he said.
According to Ormat, the electrical substation is expected to be rebuilt during the last quarter of the year.
A large rig also is being shipped to allow for drilling of new wells if needed.
“Ormat overcame significant challenges to deliver another successful, record year,” commented Isaac Angel, Chief Executive Officer, “Electricity generation grew nearly 7% and electricity segment revenue increased 9.5%, meeting our guidance and demonstrating the strength of our portfolio as we delivered record levels of electricity, revenue and EBITDA despite a prolonged shutdown of our Puna power plant in Hawaii. Revenues from our product segment were slightly above our guidance, and we enter 2019 with a strong and growing backlog and a diversified pipeline of business opportunities in Turkey, New Zealand, the United States, the Philippines and China. Our energy storage activity is progressing under new leadership, albeit at a slower pace than we anticipated, and we are continuing efforts to build a solid pipeline of opportunities”
Mr. Angel continued, “With regards to Puna, work is underway to resume operation of the plant.”, with expectations of a start of operations in late 2019.
“Our guidance for 2018 full-year Adjusted EBITDA was subject to receiving $20 million in business interruption coverage by the end of the year from our insurers. We have received $12 million to date.” added Mr. Angel. “Nevertheless, considering these insurance proceeds, we exceeded our guidance for 2018 demonstrating the overall robustness of our business. As we put the challenges of 2018 behind us, we believe that we are well positioned for a year of growth in our profitability in 2019.”
Mr. Angel added, “We expect full-year 2019 total revenues between $720 million and $742 million with electricity segment revenues between $530 million and $540 million, excluding any impact from Puna during 2019. We expect product segment revenues between $180 million and $190 million. Revenues from energy storage and demand response activity are expected to be between $10million and $12 million. We expect 2019 Adjusted EBITDA between $370 million and $380 million for the full year, with no Puna-related EBITDA. We expect annual Adjusted EBITDA attributable to minority interest to be approximately $23 million excluding any impact from Puna during 2019.”
“For the trailing 12 months prior to the volcanic eruption, Puna generated $43.7 million in revenue and $26.7 million in EBITDA,” added Mr. Angel. “Even absent these contributions, we are forecasting growth in our electricity segment and the pace of growth absent Puna and any related business interruption insurance proceeds outpaces the pace of growth reported in 2018, demonstrating our diversified business model. We are still pursuing the business interruption insurance proceeds we are entitled to receive in connection with our Puna facility and we anticipate receiving additional proceeds in 2019.”
For the year ended December 31, 2018, total revenues were $719.3 million, up from $692.8 million for the year ended December 31, 2017, an increase of 3.8%. Electricity segment revenues increased 9.5% to $509.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2018, up from $465.6 million for 2017. Product segment revenues decreased 10.1% to $201.7 million for the year, down from $224.5 million last year. Other segment revenues were $7.6 million for the year ended December 31, 2018 compared to $2.7 million in 2017.
Isaac Angel: We continue with our efforts to resume operation. We have already constructed a new access road to the power plant, drilled a new fresh water well and started to open production wells that were plugged due to the lava eruption. Also an additional rig is being dispatched to the island to enable us to drill additional wells, if it is necessary.
Along with this rapid and hard work come some encouraging news. Initial test to the geothermal injection wells at Puna indicate higher temperatures at the reservoir with no sign of negative impact on pressure. We are working with HELCO, the local utility, to replace the substation that was destroyed by lava, and we believe that they are doing everything that is required to be ready to take our power online. In light of that, we currently estimate that we will be ready for the operation towards the end of 2019.
Last week, I was in Hawaii, visited the power plant, and I talked with both the governor and the mayor as well as with the management of the Hawaiian utility. And they assured me that they are doing everything that they can to help us meeting our target to resume operation by the end of the year. Obviously, the successful operation of Puna power plant is significantly dependent on the results we will receive from the geothermal wells after we open them and from the operation of the power plant equipment towards the end of the rebuild process.
With regards to Puna, work is underway to resume operation of the plant. We have constructed a new access road to the power plant, drilled a new fresh water well and started to open a production well. Initial tests from the geothermal injection wells indicate higher temperatures at the reservoir with no sign of any negative impact on pressure. In light of that, we currently estimate that we will be ready for operation by year end 2019.
The Hawai’i County Council is in the process of accepting $170,355 in monetary donations for eruption disaster relief.
Most of the money is coming from Puna Geothermal Venture ($150,000). The remainder comes from Tokyoto Oshimamachi ($18,274.22), Saishoin Temple ($2,000), and Sister City Mayor Inoue ($80.44). According to the council resolution accepting the money, the funds would be used to help offset costs incurred relating to the 2018 lava disaster in the lower Puna region.
According to Mayor Harry Kim, the Puna Geothermal Venture donation “had no strings to [the donation] except one. The owners of PGV came to all of us and just wanted to be assured that that money would be spent for the good of the people.”
“That’s $150,000. That’s a lot,” Mayor Kim said during a January 8 council committee meeting. “But that won’t even pay for one foot” of a reconstructed road.
In order to accept the donations, the council must pass a resolution and then appropriate the revenue with a bill. During a January 22 council Finance Committee meeting in Kona, the council began the process.
“It’s very clear that temporary roads are a priority,” said Puna councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz during the meeting. “I’m just wondering: we’re sitting on these huge pots of money. When are we going to start spending it and providing relief to constituents?”
Administration officials confirmed the donations haven’t been earmarked for anything yet. Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy wondered if maybe the money could be put into a separate account that could be handled by the Puna council representatives.
“Can some of this money be allocated to our contingency funds so we can work directly with the community to spend this money?” Kierkiewicz wondered. “Maybe we should take it to the mayor and see if he is open to that.”
The Finance Committee advanced Resolution 30-19 and Bill 12 to the full council with positive recommendations.
Plant Operator I – The primary responsibility of a Plant Operator is to ensure that the operation of the power plant is safely and efficiently carried out in accordance with plant safety procedures and standard operating procedures.
Wellfield Mechanical Maintenance Tech – This position is responsible for performing the tasks required to install, repair, modify, overhaul, diagnose, test, and maintain power plant equipment and systems.
In the meantime, Puna Geothermal Venture and Lono Lyman, who leases land to the power plant, are working on amending a grubbing and grading permit to extend its temporary access road to the kipuka of about 50 properties that are surrounded by the flow.
PGV built a road over the hardened lava channel last month to its site off Highway 132.
Property owner Deseree Hughes said PGV officials are heroes for trying to help them get reconnected.
Puna Geothermal Venture’s $150,000 donation to Hawaii County aimed at helping Puna residents affected by the Kilauea eruption was unrelated to its request to build an emergency access road over the lava flow, says its Hawaii representative.
Mayor Harry Kim wrote a letter to Mike Kaleikini, senior director of Hawaii affairs for Ormat Technologies, PGV’s parent company, on Nov. 26 thanking the company for the donation to “help people affected by the Lower East Rift Zone eruption.”
The county gave PGV the go-ahead in early December to begin construction of its “pioneer road” over the lava channel to regain access to the lava-locked site off Highway 132 after another supplementary disaster declaration was issued. The declaration, dated Dec. 6, allows for modifications of the flow field when authorized by county Civil Defense and other agencies.
Kaleikini said Thursday that Ormat officials promised a six-figure donation to the county during the early days of the eruption, which started May 3. He said the meeting likely occurred in May or early June.
“They needed money for temporary housing,” Kaleikini said.
“Our intent was to help out with the eruption.”
Kim also said the donation was promised months in advance and was not related to the road access issue. He said the donation was made in early November, and County Council approval is needed to accept the funds.
Kim said the money will be set aside for use in Puna.
Subsequent to approving PGV’s grubbing and grading permit, the county issued a notice informing other property owners how they can apply for the permits.
The permit applications start at county Civil Defense before being reviewed by the departments of Planning and Public Works.
Talmadge Magno, Civil Defense administrator, said he was aware of six applications, including the one from PGV, that have come through his office.
It wasn’t immediately clear if other permits have been issued.
Kaleikini said PGV also donated 40-foot containers and supplies to the “Hub,” operated by Pu‘uhonua O Puna, and made a $25,000 donation to the Red Cross. He said employees also provided security at temporary shelters.
Hawaiʻi County Mayor Harry Kim thanked Puna Geothermal Venture executives for a six-figure donation, a short time before the company was granted permission to cut an access road over the inactive lava channel that isolated the company’s power plant during the summer eruption of Kīlauea Volcano.
In a November 26 letter to Mike Kaleikini, the Senior Director of Hawaiʻi Affairs for PGV’s parent company, Ormat, Mayor Kim expressed gratitude for the “generous donation of $150,000 to help the people affected by the Lower East Rift Zone eruption.”
“This wonderfully meaningful gesture will go a long way toward supporting the County’s efforts to mitigate the arduous ordeal suffered by so many of our neighbors in the Puna community,” Kim wrote in the letter that was only recently posted to the county website. “It is especially meaningful because your company, Puna Geothermal Venture suffered alongside everyone in the eruption zone.”
The lower East Rift Zone eruption of Kīlauea began on May 3, 2018 and forced Puna Geothermal to shut down. For several dramatic weeks, lava threatened to inundate the power plant, and officials scrambled to prevent a potential catastrophic interaction between the volcanic activity and the resource wells at the industrial facility. PGV has been offline ever since.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank you personally for being there with our first responders at Civil Defense day in and day out during the four-month emergency. Your presence was extremely helpful; it showed your spirit of solidarity with everyone involved,” the mayor wrote.
On December 6, Kim signed a Sixth Supplementary Emergency Proclamation, lifting a set of lava-related prohibitions and allowing private lot owners to make “limited restorative physical modifications to the lava flow field surface on their private lot as authorized.” Puna Geothermal Venture was given approval to start work on an access road.
Work on cutting a “pioneer road” over the large lava channel was completed on December 14, the Hawaiʻi Tribune-Herald reported.
Contacted by phone before the Christmas holiday, Kaleikini told Big Island Video News he would have an update after the holiday.
“Mayor Thanks Ormat, PGV Regains Access After Eruption”
Dec 26, 2018, Big Island Video News
The Big Island produced a lot of new lava rock this year, and some of it could be the raw material for a new local industry, according to a report commissioned by a state agency.
The report said there’s potential to commercially produce a versatile building material called basalt fiber — similar to carbon fiber and glass fiber from rock.
A production plant on Hawaii island costing $78 million could generate an average annual profit of $15 million over 30 years and employ 81 people earning $75,000 on average, said the analysis by California-based consulting firm SMA Inc.
But challenges also exist, including uncertainty over whether lava rock on the island is suitable for producing high-quality basalt fiber.
“Hawaii County is an ideal location for a basalt fiber manufacturing plant due to the ease of access to basalt and desire from the Hawaiian government to develop the nascent industry, however there are a number of risks and issues,” the report said.
The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems, an aerospace center in Hilo operating under the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, commissioned the report from SMA after issuing a request for proposals last year.
The agency is exploring basalt fiber because it is seen as something that can be produced and used on the moon and Mars. Basalt, which is made up of varying levels of three minerals — plagioclase, olivine and pyroxene — is similar on the Big Island, the moon and Mars, according to the agency.
Basalt fiber can be made into durable fabrics, rebar, insulation materials and structural mesh. It can be used in place of nearly all applications that use asbestos and is more resistant to heat, abrasions, corrosion, vibrations and chemicals, according to PISCES. The fiber is produced by crushing, washing and melting rock, which is then extruded into fine filaments that can be made into different products.
SMA’s report said the worldwide value of basalt fiber production is estimated at $178 million this year and is expected to grow to $405 million in the next decade. The company said most basalt fiber is made in Russia and China. The report also identified plants in Austria, Ireland and one established earlier this year in North Carolina by the operator of the plant in Ireland.
SMA said U.S. producers can’t compete on price with plants in Russia and China, so they need to focus on quality, customer service and technology.
“Limited manufacturing capacity in the United States means there is an opportunity to establish a local champion to meet emerging needs for U.S. customers,” the report said.
In Hawaii, SMA suggested producing stringlike strands of basalt fiber instead of other products such as rebar because it has a broad customer base and it’s easier to produce, sell and export.
The company said that even with Hawaii’s high costs for labor, materials and energy, a plant could generate about $33 million in revenue and $15 million in profit annually over the long term.
Risks for a local plant include energy cost increases, labor cost and availability, community activist opposition, trade-war tariffs and currency rate fluctuations, the report noted. PISCES has determined that the mineral composition of lava rock on the Big Island can produce basalt fiber, but SMA said testing the strength of basalt fiber made from Hawaii rock hasn’t been done.
“None of these risks alone will break the business case, but taken together they could severely limit the viability of the venture,” the report said.
The operators of a Hawaii geothermal power plant have started restoring road access to the property cut off by lava from the Kilauea volcano eruption.
Big Island Mayor Harry Kim authorized a vegetation removal and grading permit for Puna Geothermal Venture to clear lava for a road to its site, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Wednesday.
The plant near the intersection of State Highway 132 and Pohoiki Road is sandwiched between the main lava channel and a string of fissures that opened during the eruption.
Work clearing a path began over the weekend, said Mike Kaleikini, a senior director for plant-owner Ormat Technologies. The new road will run parallel to the highway until it reaches the plant’s former driveway. It will then need to cross the lava channel, which is up to 400 yards wide, he said.
The project could take a week or two to complete, Kaleikini said.
The permit was granted after Kim issued a supplemental disaster declaration, which allows the county to permit the clearing of fresh lava rock. Kim said he asked Ormat officials to also help restore road access to adjoining properties.
Kaleikini said Ormat is committed to helping neighbors regain access, but he noted liability issues would need to be worked out.
Restarting operations at the geothermal plant could take about 18 months, Kaleikini said. The timeline will depend on assessments that have been mostly put on hold because of the road access problem.
Big Island officials are waiting to assess if other inundated roads can be restored until six months have passed from when the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reduced the volcano alert level, which occurred in early October.