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Maui's Energy Future Heats Up

Group proposes to develop 50 MW of power from geothermal sources driven by volcanic activity. “We can work together to have a good development plan.”

August 4, 2011
Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez

The purpose was to discuss Native Hawaiian community-based models for geothermal development, cultural issues, the protection of cultural resources and Native Hawaiian/public ownership of geothermal minerals as assets of the ceded land trust.

The panel moderated by IDG CEO Patricia Brandt included Mililani Trask Esq. of Indigenous Consultants LLC, Ku‘uleiohuokalani Kealoha Cooper of the Kealoha Estate, IDG Cultural Advisor Cy Bridges, Hawai‘i Island OHA Trustee Robert Lindsey, Hulu Lindsey of Lindsey Realty and Kahulu Productions, Geothermal Working Group Co-chair and Hamakua Springs Country Farms President Richard Ha, and Geothermal Working Group Co-chair and Hawai‘i Labor Alliance member Wally Ishibashi.

IDG proposes to develop 50 MW of power from geothermal sources driven by volcanic activity on Maui. The land under consideration (a minimum of 500 acres) is projected to be near Mākena or in East Maui and would consist of Hawaiian Homelands and areas overseen by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Article Photos

(Left to right) Geothermal Working Group Co-chair Richard Ha; Geothermal Working Group Co-chair and Hawai‘i Labor Alliance member Wally Ishibashi; Ku‘uleiohuokalani Kealoha Cooper, trustee of the James and Muilan Y. Kealoha Estate on Hawai‘i Island, and Mililani Trask Esq. of Indigenous Consultants discussed the proposed Innovations Development Group geothermal development plans at a recent meeting at the Hannibal Tavares Community Center in Pukalani.

Photo: Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez

Geothermal is the IDG response to a MECO Request for Proposals (RFP) to develop 50 MW of sustainable power to help the utility meet its energy independence goals.

According to information provided on the Union of Concerned Scientists Website, when heated water is forced to the surface, it is a relatively simple matter to capture that steam and use it to drive electric generators.

After panel introductions by Brandt, Trask took the floor and reviewed her Native 2 Native (N2N) development model adopted by IDG.

According to Trask, there are four key elements of the IDG development model that set it apart from all others: 1. The development model is culturally appropriate, 2. environmentally sustainable, 3. socially responsible 4. and economically sensible and pono.

“In Hawai‘i, resources in the public trust belong to the Hawaiian and to the general public,” Trask said. “This is unique and means we all own these precious resources together, and we have no reason to fight. We can work together to have a good development plan.”

Pointing to Hawai‘i’s dependence on oil for energy and the need to develop geothermal energy as a firm source of electrical power, Trask quoted a Lloyd’s of London report that predicted oil will hit $200 a barrel by 2013-14, and that as result, 50 percent of businesses will fail and governments will be unable to sustain their population’s current lifestyles.

As part of their development plan, IDG intends to create a community trust to assist community projects and fund it at $1.25 million per year with anticipated revenues from its geothermal project.

The first geothermal well in Hawai‘i that produced steam was drilled in 1976. This well, named HGP-A, is 6,140 feet deep and one of the hottest wells in the world.

The next geothermal effort was the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) that was issued a permit to produce 30 MW of geothermal power in the Kapoho section of the Kilauea East Rift Zone in the Puna District of Hawai‘i Island.

In 2010, Ormat, Puna Geothermal Venture’s parent company, began exploration in Maui’s geothermal sub-zone on Haleakalā’s southwest rift with the intention of defining the probable high-temperature resource on Maui.

Ormat is exploring 8,000 acres of leased ‘Ulupalakua Ranch land for well sites that could support the production of at least 24 MW of energy a day for Maui, according to information provided by the company at a meeting hosted by the Kula Community Association in May.

Who will win the contract from MECO to be the producer of sustainable power on Maui—and whether or not it will be geothermal—remains uncertain.

What is certain is that things will only continue to heat up between competitors and their community supporters as the potential for big energy and big profits emerges in the race to dethrone King Oil on Maui.

 
 

 

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