Puna Geothermal Power Plant Refurbishment Should be Completed by End of Year

From Ormat Technologies, Inc. (ORA) CEO Isaac Angel on Q2 2019 Results – Earnings Call Transcript:

CEO Isaac Angel: We continue to make good progress in our efforts to resume operations at Puna. We expect that our power plant refurbishment activities including the work on the substation will be completed on schedule by the end of the year.

Our plants will resume operations as soon as local permitting and transmission network upgrades being undertaken by our local utility partner are completed by early 2020. On the field side during work to renew the plugs from our geothermal wells, we found that two of the production wells were damaged and we will have to repair or re-drill them.

In addition, we continue to work on the other wells. We believe that once we resume operation, capacity would gradually increase as we continue to complete necessary well repairs and trailing. As a vertically integrated company, we have the unique advantage of controlling the entire value chain of geothermal development, this will help us to bring Puna online.

USA, Hawaii: Puna Geothermal Power Plant Refurbishment Should be Completed by End of Year – Ormat CEO
Global Geothermal News, Geothermal Resources Council
https://geothermalresourcescouncil.blogspot.com/2019/08/usa-hawaii-geothermal.html

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Daniel Dores and Lanai Drilling

HGGRC’s research coordinator Daniel Dores updated fellow alumni with his involvement in the Hawaii Play Fairway Project in an alumni newsletter. From the earth sciences department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa:

Alumni News
Summer 2019, By Daniel Dores, Nuhou Kanaka Puka (Alumni News), Department of Earth Sciences, University of Hawaii at Manoa
http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/GG/resources/earth-sciences-news-2019.pdf

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Ted’s Thesis Presentation

Congrats to Ted Brennis for successfully presenting his undergraduate thesis, “Geothermal in Hawaii: A Comparison of Wind, Solar, and Geothermal Energy Resources.” For the thesis, Ted researched and wrote about the renewable energy options in Hawai‘i. Through his calculations, Ted demonstrated that geothermal energy is competitive with solar and wind energy in terms of cost and land use. His thesis and accompanying presentation attracted media coverage! Good job, Ted!

Renewable Energy in Hawaii: A Comparative Analysis of Wind, Solar, and Geothermal Energy Resources
https://www.higp.hawaii.edu/hggrc/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Brennis-Ted-2019.07.23-Thesis-Presentation.pdf

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Student Justin Higa

Our former undergraduate student Justin Higa believes in geothermal energy:

“Geothermal energy is a viable source of renewable power for the State of Hawaiʻi. Geothermal energy has a significantly smaller carbon footprint when compared to fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. This is especially true in Hawaiʻi, where we must import these resources by boat over thousands of miles of ocean.”

Justin Higa’s work at HGGRC contributed to his professional development:

“Working for Nicole prepared me for life as a graduate student in many aspects. Specifically, I appreciated the hands-on experience and technical skills I gained (operating a gravimeter, Trimble GPS, GPS processing), some of which I use in grad school today. She allowed me opportunities to do field work in Hawaii (Big Island and on Oahu) that taught me skills I also use in the field today.”

The soft-spoken Hawaii local boy is now researching flank collapses in volcanic islands at the University of California — Los Angeles. The master’s degree student was recently featured in a UCLA newsletter for winning a fellowship!

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Field School in Hydrogeophysics in Volcanic Environments

In a 3-week summer field course, Drs. Niels Grobbe and Stephanie Barde-Cabusson taught seven students multi-geophysical methods through hands-on learning. Methods included ambient noise seismics, nodal-based, true 3D electrical resistivity tomography, and self-potential. The graduate-level course was Geology and Geophysics 699: Summer Field School in Hydrogeophysics in Volcanic Environments.

This hydrogeophysical course aimed to identify and quantify groundwater flow and distribution in the old stream valley at Makapuu, Oahu. The course covered the entire geophysical workflow, including data acquisition, planning, data collection in the field, data processing, imaging, and hydrogeophysical data and hydrologic modeling — a skill that is transferable to the reservoir scale in exploration geophysics. The course covered challenges and solutions for data acquisition and imaging in basaltic environments.

Class Activities

June 5: The students used small seismic node sensors to record naturally occurring seismic waves to image flow-controlling geological structures and groundwater distribution.

June 6: Dr. Stephanie Barde-Cabusson showed participants how to use self potential, a non-invasive, passive, geoelectrical method used to measure the naturally occurring electrical potential difference caused by subsurface fluid flow between the two electrodes. Two copper-copper sulfate electrodes, a handheld voltmeter, and 300m of electrical wire were used in this method.

June 7: The class deployed 54 seismic nodes in one day.

June 13: The class used ERT, an active geophysical method that images the electrical conductivity distribution of the subsurface of the Earth. Conductivity measurements help identify saturated and non-saturated rock and elucidate the salinity of the groundwater. The method uses an electrical recording box and three nodes with copper-copper sulfate electrodes. Two 4-8” long stakes are then partially placed in the ground to inject a small electrical current from a portable generator with both stakes connected to a current injection box via cable.

More photos can be seen in the Facebook album.

Summer Field School in Hydrogeophysics in Volcanic Environments
https://www.facebook.com/pg/hawaiigeothermal/photos/?tab=album&album_id=2466697076885795

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Puna Geothermal plant on track to open later this year

Mike Kaleikini

Mike Kaleikini — the senior director of Hawaii affairs for Ormat, the company who owns the Puna Geothermal venture plant — said that the plant is still on track to open by the end of this year.

“We hope to begin powering up buildings and equipment in July,” Kaleikini said. “Lava covered three geothermal wells, two production wells, one re-injection well, and a substation.”

“We uncovered one of the three wells, and are working on the other wells to clear, test and assess the status of the wells,” Kalekini said.

He also noted that Hawaiian Electric Light Company recently replaced their once-smoldering utility poles with steel ones to restore power to the plant, as well as 30 customers east of the facility.

Kalekini told PBN that once Ormat has a better understanding of the well’s status and integrity, the company can decide how to proceed with re-opening the plant. In the beginning of April, a road was built over the hardened lava channel allowing workers access to the plant, and nearby residents access to their homes.

At a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing last Thursday, Ormat Technologies Executive Paul Thomsen told Sen. Mazie K. Hirono that Ormat agreed to continue engaging all stakeholders as the company moves forward with reopening the facility.

Kaleikini said that the company has been holding community meetings on a regular basis every other month while the facility is in the process of being assessed and repaired. He said that the meetings are typically well attended, with more than 100 attendees at the first meeting in March. The next meeting has a tentative date of July 18.

“So far they have been very productive meetings,” Kaleikini said. “We provided 31% of the Big Island’s energy in 2017 and we provided the lowest cost of energy on the island. We are looking forward to coming back online.

Puna Geothermal plant on track to open later this year
June 25, 2019, By Megan Fernandes, Pacific Business News
https://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/news/2019/06/25/puna-geothermal-plant-on-track-to-open-later-this.html

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Puna Geothermal Venture at the U.S. Senate Energy Committee Meeting

Full Committee Hearing on Geothermal Energy in the U.S.

Business meeting followed by a hearing to examine opportunities and challenges for advanced geothermal energy development in the United States.Witnesses:•The Honorable Daniel R. SimmonsAssistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy;•Mr. Timothy R. SpisakState Director, Bureau of Land Management – New Mexico,U.S. Department of the Interior;•Ms. Katherine R. YoungGeothermal Program ManagerNational Renewable Energy Laboratory; •Mr. Tim LatimerCEOFervo Energy; and•Mr. Paul A. ThomsenVice President, Business Development – AmericasOrmat Technologies, Inc.

Posted by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Discussion about Puna Geothermal Venture at 1:27:41 on the video

Mr. Paul A. Thomsen, Vice President of Business Development for Ormat Technologies (parent company of PGV), promised U.S. Sen Mazie Hirono that Ormat will engage the Hawaii Island community:

“As you proceed to reopen the plant, I’d like your commitment that your company will engage with the local community and other interested people on the Big Island to hear their views and concerns,” Hirono said.

Thomsen told Hirono, “… you absolutely have my commitment to do that.”

“Ormat has been proud to operate that facility for some time,” he continued. “It’s a compelling story because we often talk about energy security, and it’s going to be an incredible success story to say that a geothermal facility surrounded by lava was able to weather the storm, (and) come back online. … Geothermal power plants are incredibly resilient.

“You have my full commitment, as we go through the repermitting process, as we build the new transmission lines, this is really going to be a story of rebirth.”

Thomsen thanked PGV leaders for working with the community “to bring the roads back, bring the power back up, and bring new life to the eastern Pahoa area.”

“… We are doing everything in our power to get that facility back up and operating, and frankly hope that the geologic activity that occurred will make those wells hotter, more productive, and maybe we’ll see a greater product out of the Puna Geothermal Venture moving forward.”

The Full Committee Hearing to Examine Geothermal Energy Development examined opportunities and challenges for advanced geothermal energy development in the United States. The hearing was held on Thursday, June 20, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. EDT in Room 366 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC.

Full Committee Hearing to Examine Geothermal Energy Development
Thursday, June 20, 2019, Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC
https://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings-and-business-meetings?ID=0D0AF494-18B8-4C0D-A907-14F927B529A0

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Nicole Teaches an International Volcano Course

Nicole Lautze (back turned against camera) and the group at Pohoiki new black sand beach, discussing how black sand forms when molten lava enters the ocean.

Our star researcher Nicole Lautze co-taught the International Training Program at Hawaii Island.

This eight-week course introduces volcano monitoring techniques to scientists and technicians from volcano observatories in developing countries. The course included five modules, and Nicole taught the “Pulse of the Volcano” module, which covered lava (i.e. types, processes, and deposits) and volcano eruptions. Nicole taught through lectures and field work in the vicinity of the Kīlauea Volcano, and the class visited lava formations from the 2018 Kīlauea eruptions; the Mauna Ulu, a volcanic cone; and Kīlauea Iki, a pit crater. As a hands-on activity, the students analyze tephra from the Kīlauea Iki eruption of 1959 by using mesh strainers.

Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes (CSAV)

More photos can be seen on our Facebook photo album.

This program is offered by The Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes, University of Hawaii at Hilo. Mahalo to Dave Carvalho and Darcy Bevens for the photos and info!

International Training Program
The Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes, University of Hawaii at Hilo
https://hilo.hawaii.edu/csav/international/

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US Senate committee hears from official from PGV parent company

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii

Ormat Technologies committed Thursday to continue its engagement with the Puna community and other Big Island stakeholders as the company proceeds to reopen Puna Geothermal Venture.

That assurance came from Paul Thomsen, Ormat Technologies vice president of business development, and was given during a U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing that aimed to examine geothermal energy development.

Ormat owns PGV, which provided about 30% of the power on the island until lava from Kilauea volcano caused the plant close in May 2018, said committee member Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, during the hearing.

Lava destroyed a substation and covered a few geothermal wells, as well as cut off road access to the state’s only geothermal power plant, but it was otherwise spared significant damage in the eruption that began May 3, 2018, in lower Puna.

“As you proceed to reopen the plant, I’d like your commitment that your company will engage with the local community and other interested people on the Big Island to hear their views and concerns,” Hirono said.

Paul Thomsen

Thomsen told Hirono, “… you absolutely have my commitment to do that.”

“Ormat has been proud to operate that facility for some time,” he continued. “It’s a compelling story because we often talk about energy security, and it’s going to be an incredible success story to say that a geothermal facility surrounded by lava was able to weather the storm, (and) come back online. … Geothermal power plants are incredibly resilient.

“You have my full commitment, as we go through the repermitting process, as we build the new transmission lines, this is really going to be a story of rebirth.”

Thomsen thanked PGV leaders for working with the community “to bring the roads back, bring the power back up, and bring new life to the eastern Pahoa area.”

“… We are doing everything in our power to get that facility back up and operating, and frankly hope that the geologic activity that occurred will make those wells hotter, more productive, and maybe we’ll see a greater product out of the Puna Geothermal Venture moving forward.”

Prior to the eruption, Mike Kaleikini, senior director of Hawaii affairs for Ormat, said PGV had regular quarterly community meetings, “when we would share with folks in attendance what was going on at PGV,” as well as visit with nearby community associations.

PGV also met with the “regulatory side,” giving updates to the county, state and federal agencies that have regulatory oversight.

Mike Kaleikini

The company will now host community meetings more often.

“With the restart, we have agreed to have community meetings every other month, and more, if more work (is) going on,” Kaleikini said.

The first post-eruption meeting, discussing plans to regain ground access to the facility and updating residents on the requirements to use a road on PGV’s property to reach homes isolated by the lava flows, was in March and drew more than 100 people. The county and Hawaii Electric Light Co. also provided updates.

A second meeting was convened in mid-May and drew fewer residents.

The next community meeting is planned for mid-July, Kaleikini said, and will continue “every other month in the middle of the month until such time we have more activity that warrants more frequent meetings.”

As part of its community outreach and engagement efforts, Kaleikini said PGV has provided college scholarships to students from Pahoa High and Intermediate School, Kua O Ka La New Century Public Charter School and Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science, and supported local sports teams, educational activities and events.

Kaleikini said PGV and its employees are appreciative of the support they’ve received from the community and from Ormat for its commitment in keeping “everyone employed throughout the entire eruption.”

“Fortunately the eruption stopped when it did stop and allowed us to make plans to return to the facility, actually working on the facility, assessing equipment with the goal of returning back to operations by year end,” he said.

Permit applications for two new geothermal wells were resubmitted to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and are under review, Kaleikini said.

The applications were filed April 4 and were reviewed and returned to PGV with comments earlier this month.

Kaleikini previously told the Tribune-Herald that the 38-megawatt geothermal power plant still is assessing wells that were covered by lava or plugged during the eruption, and described the applications for new wells as a contingency.

PGV is allowed to build as many as 28 wells under a plan of operation approved in 2006.

It currently has 11 wells — five for injection and six for production — that range in depths of 4,000 feet and 8,000 feet.

US Senate committee hears from official from PGV parent company
Saturday, June 22, 2019, By Stephanie Salmons, Hawaii Tribune-Herald
https://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/2019/06/22/hawaii-news/us-senate-committee-hears-from-official-from-pgv-parent-company/

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Honour, Our Global Environmental Science Grad!

Honour Booth conducting research in a laboratory.

Our student Honour Booth!

As a teen, when Booth began surfing regularly on Oʻahu and her mother always reminded her to use sunscreen, she would argue that it contained chemicals that were detrimental to island waters. The question of just how much sunscreen actually goes into the environment remained with Booth into college. This question inspired her to develop her research project with Philip Williams, a UH Mānoa chemistry professor. Booth has attended conferences including the International Coral Reef Symposium. In addition, being selected as a Peter J. Rappa Sustainable Coastal Development Fellow led to her working with the city’s Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency. This spring, she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in chemistry.

“A scholarly focus on sustainability and stewardship”
June 10, 2019, UH News
https://www.hawaii.edu/news/2019/06/10/manoa-soest-ges-graduates/

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DLNR bounces wells application back to PGV

Applications for two new geothermal wells have been reviewed and returned to Puna Geothermal Venture with comments, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources confirmed this week.

The applications were filed April 4 and come as PGV, the state’s only geothermal power plant, moves to resume operations after being isolated by last year’s Kilauea eruption.

The permits require approval from DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case.

DLNR is awaiting the revised permit applications to be resubmitted, a department spokesman said.

Mike Kaleikini, PGV’s senior director of Hawaii affairs, said “… we’re working on our side to respond to the comments,” which were “primarily procedural” in nature.

Response to DLNR should be provided within a couple of days or a week, he said.

Kaleikini recently told the Tribune-Herald that the 38-megawatt geothermal power plant still is assessing wells that were covered by lava or plugged during the eruption.

He described the applications for new wells as a contingency.

“We’re committed, we’re definitely committed to returning back to operations before year-end,” he said Thursday.

PGV is allowed to build as many as 28 wells under a plan of operation approved in 2006.

It currently has 11 wells — five for injection and six for production — that range in depths of 4,000 feet and 8,000 feet.

The plant produced 31 percent of the island’s power and about half of its renewable energy in 2017, according to HELCO.

A DLNR spokesman said previously the department had 60 days to review the permit applications, which initially were filed March 1, were resubmitted April 4 after being deemed incomplete.

DLNR bounces wells application back to PGV
Monday, June 10, 2019, by Stephanie Salmons, Hawaii Tribune-Herald
https://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/2019/06/10/hawaii-news/dlnr-bounces-wells-application-back-to-pgv/

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State study explores utility alternatives

Big Island Sen. Lorraine Inouye: “Was there any discussions regarding going forward if there’s a generation and distribution of geothermal resources (by) undersea cable?”

Sen. Inouye is a member of the Energy, Economic Development and Tourism Committee in the Hawaii State Senate.

State study explores utility alternatives
Thursday, June 6, 2019, by John Burnett, Hawaii Tribune-Herald
https://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/2019/06/06/hawaii-news/state-study-explores-utility-alternatives/

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Congrats, Honour!

Honour setting up her rain bucket

Congratulations to Honour Booth! Our undergraduate research fellow graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Global Environmental Science and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry.

For the past two years, Honour has been collecting rain in the Ala Wai Watershed. Her research aims to characterize rainfall patterns over an elevation gradient using the isotopic ratios of oxygen and hydrogen in rain water. As rainfall patterns change due to climate change, it is important to know what rains will be responsible for recharging Hawaiʻi’s aquifers. Honour’s study is also used to determine whether a larger-scale study of this kind in the Pearl Harbor Watershed is feasible.

Honour collecting rain on a mountain

Honour will enroll in the master’s degree program in Urban and Regional Planning and will focus on sea-level-rise adaptation. Congrats, Honour!

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PGV eyes new wells

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is reviewing applications for two new geothermal wells at Puna Geothermal Venture.

The applications were filed March 1, the department confirmed, and come as PGV moves to resume operations after being isolated by last year’s Kilauea eruption. The permits require approval from DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case.

Mike Kaleikini, PGV’s senior director of Hawaii affairs, said the 38-megawatt geothermal power plant still is assessing wells that were covered by lava or plugged during the eruption. He described the applications as a contingency.

“We’re still assessing the conditions of existing wells,” Kaleikini said.

“We just want to be prepared in the event for some reason we need a new well.”

He said DLNR has to approve reuse of existing wells and permits for new well construction. Permits for new wells would be good for one year.

PGV, which aims to restart operations by the end of the year, is allowed to build as many as 28 wells under a plan of operation approved in 2006. It currently has 11 wells — five for injection and six for production — that range in depths of 4,000 feet and 8,000 feet.

While a public hearing isn’t required for the permits, the state Public Utilities Commission is requiring PGV and Hawaii Electric Light Co. to hold a hearing regarding construction of new transmission lines.

A DLNR spokesman said the department has 60 days to review the permit applications, which were resubmitted April 4 after being deemed incomplete.

The plant produced 31 percent of the island’s power and about half of its renewable energy in 2017, according to HELCO. Critics of the state’s only geothermal power plant want to see more steps taken before it resumes operation or builds new wells.

They’ve also questioned whether the plant is needed as two 30-megawatt solar-plus-battery projects are planned for West Hawaii. Utility officials have said they still need geothermal to meet renewable energy goals and because it’s a firm power source.

Bob Petricci, president of Puna Pono Alliance, which is critical of geothermal development, said an environmental impact statement should be done before PGV restarts or builds new wells. He said the group, which also is seeking a contested case hearing for renewal of the plant’s air permit, plans to file a lawsuit regarding that issue.

“We do have concerns,” Petricci said. “It relates to rushing back into an unknown reality with their history in particular. You know the geology is different, the resource has changed. It’s hotter, it’s more fluid.”

He said caution is needed even if there are far fewer homes nearby because of the eruption.

Among their concerns, critics cite PGV’s well blowout in 1991 that caused uncontrolled venting for 31 hours.

The last gas release was in 2014 when the plant’s transmission lines were severed during Tropical Storm Iselle, prompting it to shut down.

PGV maintains gas amounts during that release were small, about 100 pounds of hydrogen sulfide, and that employees on site suffered no ill effects, though some nearby residents who were unable to leave at the time claim they were impacted.

In comparison, sulfur dioxide emissions from Kilauea climbed to more than 50,000 metric tons per day during the eruption.

Critics say more monitoring is needed to know how much gas is released by PGV during those events.

While assessments of the wells are ongoing, Kaleikini referred to the progress as “promising.”

“The rigs are set up removing the plugs as we speak,” he said.

Some of the fissures erupted on the edge of PGV’s property.

Kaleikini said that may lead to more underground heat, but he doesn’t think they are at risk of tapping into the magma dike based on the location of the fissures.

PGV encountered a pocket of magma while drilling in 2005. Kaleikini said the molten rock, left from past eruptions, solidified in the hole.

“It’s not like you have a big gusher,” he said.

Assessments of existing wells have shown the geothermal resource is about 50 degrees hotter than it was before the eruption, Kaleikini said, but still cooler than when PGV began operations nearly 30 years ago.

Puna Pono Alliance’s demand for an EIS will include a request many might find controversial.

In addition to assessing impacts the eruption might have had on PGV, Petricci said the group wants it to also determine whether PGV impacted the eruption itself.

He said he doesn’t think it caused the eruption but that it might have had something to do with its intensity.

“I’m not saying that’s what happened,” Petricci said, adding that, “If you look at the line of fissures right along the line of PGV’s boundary,” that raises questions.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory debunked claims from some geothermal opponents that PGV could somehow have caused the eruption in a “Volcano Watch” article in April. It said there is no credible model that connects geothermal operations to the eruption, noting the migration of magma started miles away at Pu‘u ‘O‘o.

“Impacts of the LERZ eruption were devastating, but the reason for the lava flow is no simpler than the fact that we live on an active volcanic island,” HVO said. “What happened in 2018 is part of Kilauea’s natural process and was not influenced by human actions.”

But even that statement hasn’t put the issue to bed.

State Sen. Russell Ruderman raised similar comments and questions as Petricci during a discussion regarding the future of the plant last month on PBS Hawaii.

“Are we going to move forward before answering the question: Did this activity contribute at all to the nature and intensity of last year’s eruption?” Ruderman, D-Puna, Ka‘u, said on the program. He noted he doesn’t think PGV caused the eruption but thinks it might have had an impact.

Kaleikini, who participated in the discussion, said he thought Ruderman’s question was absurd. He attributed it to misunderstanding of PGV’s process.

“We know our process,” he said. “For people not to do their homework, to really find out how the process really works in PGV, and to be able to make statements out there … to me that’s irresponsible. That’s borderline fear-mongering.”

In an email, Ruderman said it would be “unscientific” to dismiss these claims without investigating them. He said he hasn’t talked to HVO about his concerns but is creating a “summary for state agencies to urge them to look anew at the changed situation.”

PGV is located on Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone, and the line of 24 fissures from Leilani Estates to upper Kapoho was not unprecedented in recent history, according to HVO.

“In 1955, Kilauea Volcano erupted in the lower Puna district on the Island of Hawaii for 88 days,” Janet Babb, HVO spokeswoman and geologist said in an email. “The outbreak began on February 28, and was the first eruption in an inhabited area on Kilauea since 1840. During the eruption, at least 24 separate volcanic vents opened up and down the volcano’s East Rift Zone, with lava flows covering about 3,900 acres of land.”

That was followed by another lower East Rift Zone eruption in 1960 that destroyed the village of Kapoho. PGV began operations in the early 1990s.

Babb added that the 1840 eruption that migrated to the East Rift Zone was of similar intensity.

“The lava that erupted in 1840 from the lowest fissure at Kaohe Homesteads advanced to the ocean (distance of 9 miles) in 3 days, through what is now Nanawale Estates,” she said. “By comparison, the 2018 fissure 8 lava advanced to the ocean (distance of 8 miles) in more than a week. The 1840 eruption lasted for about 30 days while the 2018 eruption was most active for 3 months.”

While acknowledging the rift zone is inherently unstable, Petricci said he thinks that PGV reinjecting the condensed steam into the ground through injection wells could have weakened the rock and aided the flow of magma, and compared it to the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on earthquakes.

“I don’t think that’s a conspiracy theory,” he said. “If you look at the science, it’s a science question.”

Kaleikini said PGV doesn’t do fracking.

“We drill and we look for naturally permeable zones,” he said.

HVO officials have not noted any correlation between PGV and seismic activity during the plant’s history.

As additional questions are being raised, Tina Neal, HVO scientist-in-charge, said in an email that geologists are “reviewing and preparing a summary of observations regarding questions about PGV and the 2018 eruption.”

PGV eyes new wells
By Tom Callis, June 2, 2019, Hawaii Tribune-Herald

PGV eyes new wells

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Wooden poles at PGV smoldering

Four wooden poles installed on Puna Geothermal Venture’s property were found to be smoldering because of heat from the lava flow they cross.

Hawaii Electric Light Co. told the state Public Utilities Commission in a letter Monday that the poles need to be replaced with steel versions.

That was in response to a PUC letter notifying HELCO and PGV that the re-installation of transmission lines to the plant, surrounded by lava from last year’s Kilauea eruption, requires a public hearing.

HELCO said it considers replacing the poles to be an emergency safety concern.

In response to the PUC letter, HELCO said it ceased work on the transmission lines.

Wooden poles at PGV smoldering
May 23, 2019, Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Wooden poles at PGV smoldering

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HELCO Says New Poles On PGV Property Began Smoldering

As the Hawaii Electric Light Company prepares for a public hearing on a transmission line rebuild for Puna Geothermal Venture, four wooden poles recently installed on the property will have to be removed after they started to smolder from residual underground heat.

Puna Geothermal Venture is working to bring the power plant back online following the 2018 eruption of Kīlauea Volcano on the lower East Rift Zone. Lava partially inundated PGV facility, cut access, and forced the company to shut down the operation.

The eruption ended in September 2018, and in the months following, Puna Geothermal Venture has been moving ahead with a recovery plan. The Ormat-owned power company has entered into an agreement to rebuild with HELCO. The agreement included the rebuild of a transmission line to and from the geothermal power plant.

On May 9, the Hawaiʻi Public Utilities Commission notified HELCO in a letter “that an overhead line proceeding and public hearing are required,” before moving forward with the connection.

HELCO responded to the PUC in a May 20 letter, saying:

Prior to receiving the [May 9] Letter, to restore electric service to PGV, Hawai‘i Electric Light installed 13 wooden poles that are currently being used to provide 12 kilovolt distribution service to PGV. The poles, which are sized to also carry transmission lines above the distribution lines, vary in height from approximately 60 to 65 feet above the ground. Both transmission line and distribution line conductors have been installed on the poles. The Company tied the new transmission lines to its 6500 line on May 8, 2019. However, none of the new transmission lines were energized.

As a result of the Commission’s directives, Hawai‘i Electric Light immediately ceased work on the transmission lines, disconnected the newly installed wires from the 6500 line, and removed the transmission conductors from the poles that are outside PGV’s property. However, the Company has since discovered that four of the new wooden poles – all on PGV’s property – need to be immediately replaced with steel poles, due to residual underground heat causing the wood poles to smolder. The impacts of the residual heat can be fully mitigated with the use of steel poles. The Company considers this to be an emergency safety concern that must be and is being addressed in advance of filing its forthcoming application for Commission approval pursuant to Sections 269-27.5 and -27.6 of the Hawai‘i Revised Statutes.

Once the four steel replacement poles are installed, the conductors will be transferred over, and the four wooden poles will be removed. PGV will pay for the entire cost of the existing line and replacement poles. Distribution line (i.e., less than 46 kV) work is continuing to tie in service to the PGV facility, also at PGV’s expense.

HELCO also informed the PUC of its recent community outreach efforts in regards to the transmission line project. HELCO says it visited the two customers that reside near the transmission line project, and “both customers were supportive of the Company’s efforts and did not have concerns regarding the project.” HELCO also noted its participation in a May 17 community meeting in Pāhoa hosted by PGV.

HELCO says it will file an application consistent with the PUC’s instructions in June 2019.

HELCO Says New Poles On PGV Property Began Smoldering
May 21, 2019, Big Island Video News
https://www.bigislandvideonews.com/2019/05/21/helco-says-new-poles-on-pgv-property-began-smoldering/

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A year after Kilauea Volcano eruption, power poles at Puna geothermal plant are still ‘smoldering’

Four wooden power poles installed by Hawaii Electric Light Co. several weeks ago along a new road opened by the Puna Geothermal Venture are “smoldering” due to residual heat from last year’s Kilauea Volcano eruption.

Three of PGV’s wells were covered by lava during the eruption, and current ground temperatures in some areas of the eruption have measured as high as 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

HELCO plans to replace the smoldering poles in the coming week with specially insulated steel poles that are better able to withstand the heat, according to a utility spokesman.

In a letter Monday to the Public Utilities Commission, Joseph Viola, Hawaiian Electric Co. vice president for regulatory affairs, said HELCO installed 13 power poles, 60 to 65 feet tall, and electrical lines that would restore power to PGV and supply power to HELCO’s grid.

HELCO’s immediate plan was to restore power to PGV and about 30 neighboring homes that survived the eruption. The company has crews working at the geothermal plant in an effort to resume power generation by the end of this year.

However, the PUC advised HELCO in a letter earlier this month that it needed commission approval to rebuild those power lines because they will follow a new alignment along a road PGV has opened to restore access to the plant.

Viola said HELCO had already installed the 13 power poles, transmission lines, distribution lines and other equipment before it received that letter from the PUC. The lines have not been energized, and HELCO stopped work on the lines immediately after receiving the PUC letter, according to Viola.

In the meantime, HELCO discovered the “emergency safety concern” that is the smoldering new poles, and told the commission it needs to fix that problem immediately.

Jim Kelly, Hawaiian Electric Co.’s vice president for corporate relations, said the overheating poles will be replaced by new steel poles that will be 70 to 75 feet tall and treated with special thermal paint. Each pole will also be wrapped with insulation and surrounded by a special thermal backfill to help dissipate heat.

“We learned some things from the rebuilding work we did after the 2014 lava flow in Pahoa that we’ll put to use on this project,” Kelly said. That 2014 flow also damaged utility lines and almost reached the main road through Pahoa village before stopping.

Kelly said the utility hopes to have service restored to PGV and its neighbors in the next two to three months.

PGV has uncovered one of the three wells that was buried by lava, and hopes to use existing wells to restart the plant. The company says its generating equipment at the plant is intact, but PGV needs to reconstruct three air quality monitoring stations.

The PGV plant has a contract to provide up to 38 megawatts of power to HELCO. When it shut down because of the eruption, that amounted to 29% of the entire power generation on Hawaii island.

A year after Kilauea Volcano eruption, power poles at Puna geothermal plant are still ‘smoldering’
May 22, 2019, By Kevin Dayton, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
https://www.staradvertiser.com/2019/05/22/hawaii-news/power-poles-at-puna-geothermal-plant-are-smoldering/?HSA=940d833d4d5467ee9064645048f24866922bbd9d

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Puna Geothermal Venture Updates Community

The Puna community gathered at the Pāhoa Community center on Friday evening for an update on the planned return of geothermal power operations in the area impacted by the 2018 eruption of Kīlauea Volcano.

Puna Geothermal venture organized the public meeting, and was joined by officials from the Hawaiʻi Electric Light officials and the County of Hawaiʻi. About 20 members of the public were present.

Jordan Hara, PGV plant manager, said that due to the corrosion issues, they have a big job rebuilding generators and everything at the plant. “We probably average of about 40 to 50 contractors on site giving us an hand, from all over the United States. plus we’ve got also hands from our other plants on the mainland helping us out.”

“We’re still assessing the wells and also the resource,” Hara said. “We got bunch of our equipment on site, so that’s ongoing currently. We did start assessing on KS-14 and then we’ll be moving over to the next well.”

Hara talked about the April 1st opening of Pioneer Road to residents of the Halekamahina kipuka, noting that the company has experienced some pros and cons on the road access.

After things went well for a week, Hara said PGV opened up the hours to 22 out of 24 hours, and the next day had “a guy sneaking in a guy in the trunk of his car,” and some people “swearing and yelling at our security.”

“When we do have incidents like that we will cancel waivers” to use the road, Hara said.

HELCO representative Kevin Waltjen talked about the Rebuild Agreement the utility has with PGV, and the recent Public Utilities Commission letter saying that public hearings will be necessary on transmission lines being installed for the facility.

“What that does is it establishes a line that allows us to connect to and bring service down to the customers that got access to that area,” Waltjen said. “And that’s important.”

Diane Ley, the director of Research and Development for Hawaiʻi County who is leading the community outreach effort on the Kīlauea eruption recovery, gave an update, noting that “we’re seeing resources start to flow to the county.”

“This week in the news was a big announcement from our congressional delegation,” Ley said. “About $66.8 million dollars coming down to the state of Hawaiʻi. Number one, that money is not all going to come to Hawaiʻi (Island). Some of it was is designated by Congress to go to Kauaʻi and Oʻahu for the flooding and landslide events there. It does not include Hurricane Lane, so that’s off the table for this disaster. There may be other appropriations that support that. This appropriation, we don’t know the details, yet. We’re waiting for a Federal Register notice to come out. But when it does, it’ll give more guidance as to what areas these resources can go to, and that can include rebuilding homes. And we don’t know if that means actual construction of homes or just infrastructure to support homes. It can help to rebuild infrastructure: lost roads, parks, water lines. It can support affected businesses, in terms of adjusting job losses impacts to tax revenues, job training, workforce development, and maybe even some loans and grants. We’ll see.”

The use of the funds will require an action plan that will need to be submitted to federal government for approval, Ley said.

Ley also noted that work continues on a risk assessment and vulnerability analysis. “We expected that to be out already, but it’s still taking some time,” ley said. “We’ve got great resource people that have the technical skills and and the scientific background put that together.”

VIDEO: Puna Geothermal Venture Updates Community
May 18, 2019, by Big Island Video News
http://www.bigislandvideonews.com/2019/05/18/video-puna-geothermal-venture-updates-community-2/

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PGV talks with HELCO are ongoing

As Puna Geothermal Venture moves toward restarting following last year’s Kilauea eruption, a new power purchase agreement with Hawaii Electric Light Co. might be on the table.

Mike Kaleikini, senior director of Hawaii affairs for Ormat, PGV’s parent company, said talks are ongoing with HELCO, and revolve around delinking the cost of power from the price of oil. During peak hours, the first 25 megawatts PGV sells to HELCO is tied to that cost.

Essentially, that pays PGV, which had a capacity of 38 mgw, for reducing the amount of oil the utility uses to generate power.

But it also can lead to higher costs for customers.

Kaleikini said PGV is interested in delinking the cost of power from oil to provide more certainty about its revenue.

He said the parties entered those talks before the eruption started.

PGV, the state’s only geothermal power plant, went offline after the start of the eruption May 3, 2018. The eruption isolated the plant and destroyed a substation.

It built a “pioneer road” over the hardened lava channel to reach the plant, which has been available since April 1 to residents whose homes were isolated off Highway 132.

In a May 9 letter, the Public Utilities Commission told HELCO a public hearing will be required for restoration of transmission lines to the plant. The PUC also is encouraging the parties to renegotiate the power purchase agreement to lower costs.

PGV and HELCO officials said they entered into the talks voluntarily.

A hearing is not required for service lines HELCO is providing to PGV, said Kevin Waltjen, HELCO’s Hawaii Island director.

After that’s installed, he said the service line can be extended to the Highway 132 kipuka, which could take a few more months.

Jordan Hara, PGV plant manager, said during a public meeting Friday evening in Pahoa that PGV is paying for the service line to its plant.

Waltjen said the cost of extending the lines to the kipuka will be absorbed by the utility.

Kaleikini said PGV is still targeting to be operational by the end of the year, assuming regulatory hurdles are cleared by then.

He said the plant continues to assess wells that were quenched or covered during the disaster.

Kaleikini said that doesn’t require new permits, though there are notification requirements for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and state Department of Health.

It’s possible PGV will need to construct new wells. However, he stated PGV would not need new permits from DLNR, since it previously received approval to construct as many as 28.

PGV talks with HELCO are ongoing
May 18, 2019, By Tom Callis, Hawaii Tribune-Herald
https://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/2019/05/18/hawaii-news/pgv-talks-with-helco-are-ongoing/

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PUC to HELCO: Work to restore power to PGV requires approval, public hearing

Hawaii Electric Light Co.’s agreement with Puna Geothermal Venture to rebuild power transmission lines and related infrastructure will require state Public Utilities Commission approval and a public hearing.

That’s according to a May 9 letter from the PUC to Kevin Katsura, HELCO’s director of regulatory nonrate proceedings, in response to the Big Island power utility’s rebuild agreement with the geothermal power plant, which was filed March 8 with the regulatory panel.

The agreement specifies PGV will pay HELCO $2.348 million to cover design, procurement and HELCO’s portion of the Pohoiki switching station and related transmission and distribution line repairs to reconnect PGV to HELCO’s grid. That includes reconstruction of two 69-kilovolt transmission lines, one approximately a mile long and another about a mile-and-a-half long.

The PGV facility was partially overrun and some of its infrastructure destroyed by lava last year during the lower East Rift Zone eruption of Kilauea volcano.

The PUC’s letter said that despite HELCO’s plans to reconstruct the lines “in the same general area of the old lines,” the law requires commission approval “to place, construct, erect, or otherwise build” the lines.

The commission also quoted a statute requiring a public hearing prior to approval of plans “to place, construct, erect, or otherwise build a new 46 kilovolt or greater high-voltage electric transmission system above the surface of the ground through any residential area … .”

The March 8 letter from HELCO to the PUC stated there are two homes within 400 to 500 feet of where the transmission lines are to be constructed.

“This proximity to residences means a public hearing is necessary,” the PUC’s letter said.

The commission also provided HELCO with additional feedback related to its ongoing negotiations with PGV regarding a possible amended and restated power purchase agreement, and requested additional status reporting.

The letter said the commission “is not taking a position on whether PGV will, in fact, come back online, but rather is stating that if PGV does come back online, it should be under circumstances that take advantage of this opportunity to benefit HELCO ratepayers by lowering the costs of” electricity.

“We’re keeping the Public Utilities Commission informed and will follow the direction we’re given by the commission,” HELCO spokeswoman Kristen Okinaka said in an email Tuesday.

Earlier this month, Okinaka told the Tribune-Herald HELCO and PGV are working to restore the geothermal power plant to operational capacity by the end of the year.

“We aren’t anticipating any delay — we plan to stay within the timeline set by PGV for coming back online,” Okinaka said. “Under the rebuild agreement, costs related to the reconstruction of the transmission lines are covered by PGV.”

“Like you, we’ve just gotten that letter, actually, a copy of (PUC’s) letter. It was just to HELCO,” said Mike Kaleikini, PGV’s senior director of Hawaii affairs. “We haven’t determined whether this affects our timeline or not. But that’s what we’re looking at. We’re working closely with HELCO.”

State Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Puna, Ka‘u, said there are “a lot of concerns in my mind and in the community about whether they ought to restart or not.”

“I think it’s great that they’re having a public hearing, and I think it’s important to consider each step along the way in their restart. I don’t think their restart is a done deal or automatically a good idea, like they’re presenting it,” Ruderman said.

“Big Island ratepayers will be paying a lot more if they come back online than if they don’t. That has to be considered,” Ruderman said. “I think their track record of safety and lack of safety has to be considered. I think that the big elephant in the room is: Should we be putting important, expensive, critical infrastructure in a location such as this? Are we going to bank our future on this? Are we going to depend on it?

“We saw what can happen there, and there’s no reason it won’t happen again in the next few years.”

PUC to HELCO: Work to restore power to PGV requires approval, public hearing
May 15, 2019, By John Burnett, Hawaii Tribune-Herald
https://www.westhawaiitoday.com/2019/05/15/hawaii-news/puc-to-helco-work-to-restore-power-to-pgv-requires-approval-public-hearing/

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Rebuilding Puna Geothermal Venture

Ormat Technologies Inc., the parent company of Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV), which has been out of service since May of 2018 due to Kīlauea’s eruptions in the area, is in the works to rebuild. Considering PGV used to provide nearly one-quarter of Big Island’s electricity, the State of Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i Electric Light Company have committed to help in the endeavor. Recently, PGV has completed the access road to the site and mobilized workover rigs from the mainland. They have also completed drilling for a new freshwater well. However, they still need service power lines in order to test the company’s equipment. The power plant expects to be up and running again by the end of 2019.

Building Projects Stretch Across Big Island
May 11, 2019, By Sierra Hägg, Big Island Now
http://bigislandnow.com/2019/05/11/building-projects-stretch-across-big-island/

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