Frequently Asked Questions

Project Overview

Q: What is Hū Honua doing with the old Pepe‘ekeo power plant? 

A: Hū Honua is refurbishing and refitting the Pepe‘ekeo plant into a modern renewable energy facility with a new steam turbine generator, state-of-the-art digital and emissions control equipment, sound dampening systems, and other efficiency improvements.

Q: What benefits will Hū Honua bring to our community? 

A: Hū Honua will deliver economic, environmental and financial benefits to the people of East Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i Island.

Economic Impact

Q: What kind of economic benefits will the plant bring Hawai‘i Island? 

A: We anticipate about 200 construction workers will be needed to complete plant reconstruction, which we expect to take 14-18 months and 500,000 labor hours. Once operational, the plant will have about 30 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. Hū Honua will become the foundation for an innovative agriculture industry, creating approximately 200 jobs in forestry, harvesting, hauling, and in the production of wood products.

Q: How will Hū Honua help us financially?

A: Hawai‘i Island residents will be better off financially with a homegrown energy source consistently available at a lower price than oil. Producing power with biomass will stabilize electric bills and lower the cost of electricity over time.

Energy Need

Q: Why does Hawai‘i Island need biomass energy? 

A: Hū Honua is the missing piece of the island’s renewable energy solution. The biomass-to-energy plant is important because it would provide a constant source of electricity on a 24/7 basis, and complement intermittent sources like wind and solar. Hū Honua will produce power when the wind isn’t blowing and at night or when it’s cloudy or raining.

Q: How much renewable power is Hū Honua capable of producing? 

A: The 30-megawatt (MW) plant will produce about 15 percent of Hawai‘i Island’s electrical needs, enough to power about 20,000 households. It is the only renewable energy project on the island that can be operational by the end of 2018. Hū Honua can be a stable source of power that would displace the output of aging, oil-fired plants, eliminating about 250,000 barrels of imported foreign oil.

Feedstock

Q: What feedstock will be used? 

The primary feedstock is eucalyptus, which grows in abundance on the Hāmākua coast, and does not require intensive replanting. The biomass plant can use the whole tree or use portions left after logs are harvested for other uses including higher-value veneer and lumber components, thus enhancing viability of the island’s timber industry. Other feedstock, such as albizia and strawberry guava, can also be used.

Environment

Q: What does Hū Honua intend to do about the gases released from the plant during operation? 

A: Hū Honua will be carbon neutral, so no net carbon added. The carbon dioxide from combusting biomass will be offset by the sustainable growth of forestlands, which will capture a nearly equivalent amount of carbon dioxide through photosynthesis.

Q: Will Hū Honua conform to the air emission standards? 

A: Hū Honua’s modern emissions controls meet or exceed current air emissions standards and comply with all applicable Department of Health and EPA requirements. The plant is required by the federal and state agencies to meet stringent air quality requirements.

Q: Is Hū Honua planning to burn coal to generate electricity? 

A: Hū Honua’s facility will NOT burn coal. It will operate solely on biomass from the start and will never use coal, even as a back-up source. All the coal that was left on the site when the former plant was shut down has been removed.

Project Permits

Q: Does Hū Honua have the permits required for operation? 

A: Hū Honua was granted an air permit by the Department of Health, as well as an amendment to its Special Management Area (SMA) permit by the Hawai‘i County Windward Planning Commission. The process for approving both permits included public hearings and provided substantial opportunity for public comment.

Commitment to Community

Q: Will the operation of the Hū Honua power plant negatively affect traffic and the surrounding roads? 

A: The Hawai‘i County Police Department reported it doesn’t anticipate traffic or public safety concerns resulting from the project. A traffic study and survey by SSFM International found that the plant will have no significant traffic impact on Route 19.

Q: There are residential areas surrounding Hū Honua. What does Hū Honua plan to do to be a good neighbor? 

A: The plant is in an industrial zone but seeks to remain a good neighbor to nearby residences. Hū Honua is committed to limiting biomass delivery trucks to daytime hours, 6 am to 6 pm, and “Jake brakes” will be prohibited on Sugar Mill Road.

Power Purchase Agreement

Q: Why did Hawai‘i Electric Light Company (HELCO) cancel Hū Honua’s Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)?

A: HELCO cited PPA milestones Hū Honua missed because of delays during construction. We are currently working with the utility to restore the PPA and complete the plant, which will generate firm, renewable power for Hawai‘i Island residents and businesses.

Q: Since project completion has been delayed, will additional projects costs be passed on to Hawai‘i Island electricity consumers? 

A: No, Hū Honua’s owners will absorb construction cost increases and have proposed substantial price reductions relative to rates approved by the PUC in Hū Honua’s original PPA.