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Your Views for June 7

Hu Honua responds

The letter from Robert Smith (Tribune-Herald, Your Views, June 3) raised a number of important questions that deserve answers, including whether HELCO and Hawaii Island need Hu Honua.

For many Hawaii Island residents and businesses, the answer is “yes.”

Currently, HELCO is bringing on more solar and wind power, which is terrific. However, these are intermittent sources of renewable energy. To be 100 percent renewable, it will take green power facilities that can operate around the clock, every day, when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Hu Honua provides this type of “firm” power to complement the energy generated by wind and solar farms, as well as rooftop solar.

Mr. Smith looks to the future when battery storage on a utility scale can enable those intermittent power sources to store power for days without wind and sufficient sunlight. Unfortunately, the current battery technologies can provide a few hours of storage but cannot be counted on 24/7 or for extended periods.

There are no wind or solar projects with battery storage expected on the island in the near future. And with a deadline of 2045 to become completely independent of fossil fuels, there is little time to wait for such projects to be approved, go through the regulatory and permitting processes, and be developed. Hu Honua, on the other hand, is already half completed and can be online in 18 months.

Mr. Smith points out that Hawaii has tremendous solar resources. The Hamakua Coast also has an advantage in energy-producing resources. Unlike many places in our islands, the Hamakua region has the soil and climate for agriculture and is ideal for forestry. Tree crops can be grown sustainably in our areas for use as fuel. And about 20 percent of each tree grown for Hu Honua can also be used for wood products.

The combined uses of the eucalyptus crops grown for Hu Honua will generate 150 jobs in cultivating and harvesting trees, as well as in wood product businesses. This job creation will include drivers hauling the trees to the plant.

Already, there are many trucks on the highways cited by Mr. Smith, including trucks delivering oil products to HELCO power plants.

Once Hu Honua begins operating, many of the trucks carrying trees will simply replace those hauling diesel fuel. The number of trucks added to county and state roads will not increase significantly. In fact, an average of 40 trucks will deliver to the plant each day during daylight hours, which averages out to three to four trucks an hour.

The hourly traffic count at the intersection of Sugar Mill Road and Highway 19 during this time period is between 500 to more than 700 vehicles an hour, including many trucks, according to a study by transportation specialist SSFM International.

SSFM’s traffic studies have shown that adding three to four more trucks an hour to this count will have minimal impact on the overall traffic volume, and this should not change, even taking into consideration projected increases in traffic counts in the future. And the fuel burned by these trucks will be offset many times over by the hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil no longer burned by the fossil fuel plants Hu Honua will replace.

We appreciate Mr. Smith’s concerns. That is why we attend, and will continue to attend, meetings with the community, such as the one he was at. Being the best neighbor possible is one of Hu Honua’s guiding principles.

I’m reassured that facility operations will be guided by that mission, since I live in Pepeekeo, too.

Kevin Owen

General manager,

Hu Honua Bioenergy

 

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