Hu Honua Bioenergy SMA Permit Hearing Friday

State’s First Green Firm Capacity Facility Takes Big Step toward Start-up

PEPEEKEO, HI – May 7 2010 —Today, the management team of Hu Honua BioEnergy, the Hawaii-based renewable energy project in Pepeekeo, appeared before the Hawaii County Planning Commission, which is considering the company’s special management area (SMA) permit amendment application.  The team presented data showing that the facility will operate within all state and federal standards for air, water and noise. The biomass facility has already secured a term sheet agreement with HELCO to provide 20 megawatts (MW) of power to the Hawaii Island grid.

The SMA application would amend an existing valid SMA permit. The most significant modification would be to change the fuel from coal to biomass.

Although the plant will occupy the site of the earlier Hilo Coast Power Plant, the Hu Honua facility will be refitted as a modern, state-of-the-art power facility, with new digital controls, new emissions control equipment, acoustic siding and mufflers for sound control, new fuel-handling equipment, and numerous efficiency improvements.

The Hu Honua site was part of the Pepeekeo Sugar Company operation, which began in 1886. The existing facility was built in 1972 and burned coal from 1996 through 2003. Hu Honua BioEnergy will not burn coal, even as a backup, and will completely rely instead on biofuels.

In his presentation to the county planning commission, Rick McQuain, president of Hu Honua BioEnergy, LLC, presented the following list of benefits:

  • Hu Honua will provide 28-30 good-paying long-term jobs at the plant.
  • There will be more than 120 long-term indirect jobs in agriculture, transportation and support services.
  • About 100 construction jobs will be created for 9-12 months.
  • Hu Honua’s fuel is renewable and grown locally.
  • We will have lower overall air emissions in the Hilo Bay area.
  • The Hu Honua facility will reduce oil imports to Hawaii Island by approximately 10 million gallons (250,000 barrels) of oil every year.
  • Hu Honua will be a significant source of tax revenue for the state and county through general excise taxes and property taxes.
  • It will stabilize electric rates. By reducing the use of oil to generate electricity, Big Island electric bills will not be affected as much by swings in the price of oil, like those we have seen during the past five years. And that’s good news for Hawaii Island businesses and consumers.
  • Hu Honua will play a critical role in the local forestry industry. The economics of businesses that make veneers and other wood products will be significantly enhanced if they can sell the lower quality parts of the tree to Hu Honua.
  • Hu Honua will contribute significantly to the state’s renewable energy goals.

The new power plant will produce 24 megawatts of electricity, enough for 18,000 homes. Hu Honua will move Hawaii Island and the state closer to getting 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by the year 2020.

McQuain also explained Hu Honua Bioenergy is taking several steps that will reduce potential air, water and noise impacts:

  • Converting from coal to biomass will reduce emissions.
  • Installing new emissions control systems that meet or exceed state and federal requirements will significantly reduce emissions.
  • Design changes have been made to reduce water consumption and improve discharge quality.
  • Installing acoustic paneling will reduce plant noise.
  • Planting a green buffer around the perimeter of the property will also reduce noise impacts.
  • Hauling of fuel will be restricted to daylight hours.
  • Use of compression release engine brakes (i.e., Jake brakes) by trucks will be prohibited.
  • Fuel truck route will bypass the lower portion of Sugar Mill Road.
  • Hu Honua has committed to proper road maintenance.

McQuain stated, “We’ve spent a lot of time talking with members of the Pepeekeo community, and we’ve been gratified by the outpouring of support for the project. We have done our best to answer all of the questions people have about our project. The SMA hearing process gives us another opportunity to inform the people of Hawaii County about the project and the positive difference we believe it will make.”

About Hu Honua Bioenergy, LLC
Hu Honua Bioenergy, LLC, intends to retrofit the former coal-burning power plant at Pepeekeo with modern “green” technology to produce electricity from locally grown crops. Hu Honua is a Hawai‘i-based company created to meet local electricity needs using renewable resources from the Big Island.