Refurbished sugar mill bringing biomass power to Hawaii

By Anna Simet | May 23, 2012

The most oil-dependent state in the U.S. is taking a step toward renewable energy with construction of a 24 MW biomass power plant.

Under development in Pepe’ekeo on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii, Hū Honua Bioenergy has scored a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Hawai’I Electric Light Co., and now just needs approval of the PPA by the Hawai’i Public Utilities Commission.

Hū Honua Bioenergy will provide the utility with 21.5 MW of electricity over a 20-year term. The company is converting a former sugar mill into a power plant, and will use locally grown biomass, including eucalyptus, as fuel. The facility will consist of a fuel yard, steam boiler, turbine and generator.  

The plant will be able to supply about 10 percent of the island’s electricity needs, according to the companies, displacing about 250,000 barrels of oil per year.  Hawaii currently derives about 90 percent of its electricity from petroleum, the majority of which is imported, but has an ambitious renewable portfolio standard of 40 percent by 2030.

Once work on the plant begins, it will take about 18 months to refurbish.  During that time, 80-100 construction jobs will be created, along with 100 indirect jobs associated with timber and related industries, and about 30 positions when the facility becomes operational.

In other recent Hawaiian renewable energy news, Honeywell’s UOP LLC announced it has completed phase one of an integrated biorefinery in Kapolei, 14 miles from Honolulu.  At this facility, Hawaiian crops such as macadamia nuts and sugarcane will be sent through a pyrolysis process and converted into a liquid biofuel. 

Read more about the project in the upcoming June issue of Biomass Power & Thermal