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.

Q: Will the facility contaminate and desalinate the brackish water aquifer?

A: No. All discharge will be non-hazardous and will meet State Water Quality Standard, so the environment will be protected from negative impacts. The salinity of the water obtained from the brackish aquifer will be returned to the same brackish aquifer and non-potable water that is purified will contain som low levels of salts such that there will be a negligible change in salinity.

Q: Will the facility inject over two dozen hazardous chemicals into the wells?

A: No. Absolutely no additives will contain Clean Water Act (CWA) chemicals in quantities deemed toxic or hazardous by the EPA (<1% is considered de minimus by EPA). In addition, such additives consists of approximately 1 part per 5 million of the 21.6 MGD discharge. Any lab testing chemicals used to ensure the purity of the boiler water will also be in quantities deemed non-toxic or non-hazardous given that the amounts proposed are approximately 1 part per 5.5 billion of the 21.6 MGD discharge.

Q: Will the discharge be so hot that it will harm coral and marine life?

A: No. State Water Quality Standards (WQS) provide limitations that are considered protective of aquatic life. EPA believes limits established to meet WQS are sufficient to satisfy Best Available Technology Economically Achievable (BAT) and Best Conventional Control Technology (BCT). HAR 11-54-6 for marine waters states that temperature shall not vary by more than 1.0o Celsius (C) from ambient conditions. Based on a worst-case operating scenario (24/7 gross load), expert modeling shows that the temperature will not increase more than 0.16o C above ambient.

Q: Will the force of 21.6 MGD less than 100 feet from the edge of the cliffs cause further erosion and landslides?

A: No. Water will be returned to the brackish water aquifer below the mean sea water level, and not through the cliff face fronting the facility. Since the UICs are lined with stainless steel pipe for the first 120 feet or more, the water will reach a depth of some 40 feet or more below the sea water level, thus it is not possible for water to travel laterally towards and above sea water cliff face.

Q: Will drawing water from the brackish aquifer on non-potable aquifer deplete the water for the community?

A: No. The drawdown is limited to a small radius around the supply wells and will not affect community supply sources.

Q: Why is Outfall No. 3 not included in Hu Honua’s stormwater application?

A: Stormwater from the site will not be directed to Outfall No. 3.

Q: Why are manganese, copper and arsenic not included as pollutants?

A: These compounds are naturally occurring metals and not pollutants associated with the industrial activities of the facility.

Q: Is there highly toxic soil on site?

A: No. Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment soil testing results of former sugar and coal operations showed the soil was below State human health risk levels.

Q: Does the facility currently have an ash pile left abandoned by its predecessor coal plant?

A: No. The ash pile being referenced in public comments is not on Hu Honua’s site and not considered highly toxic by the Department of Health.

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.