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Companies eye Puna properties for geothermal plant


Tribune-Herald staff writer

Geothermal development companies are trying to line up potential sites for a new power plant before a bidding deadline early next year.

So far, at least two have their sights on Puna.

Innovations Development Group, a Hawaii-based company, has identified property about two miles from Puna Geothermal Venture as a potential site, while a newly established company from Honolulu, Avalor Energy Corp., is considering leasing property near the steam vents on Highway 130, about two miles from Leilani Estates, according to a man who attended a meeting held by the company for nearby residents.

Both companies plan to seek a contract to provide up to 50 megawatts of geothermal power to Hawaii Electric Light Co.

Currently, the 38-megawatt PGV plant outside Pahoa is the state’s only existing geothermal facility.

HELCO is requiring that companies secure property to submit a proposal.

The utility has issued a draft request for proposals. The 60-day-long bidding process may begin as early as next month.

IDG Executive Assistant Ryan Matsumoto said the company is “definitely looking” at two parcels owned by Kealoha Estate as part of the proposal it plans to submit to HELCO. The properties total nearly 406 acres and are located near Pohoiki Road, makai of PGV.

A page on Kealoha’s website lists the properties as potential geothermal sites with the IDG logo.

Matsumoto said the company has made no commitments yet and doesn’t have any “legal agreements” with the property owner, which has declined to comment.

He said IDG is looking at other locations as well but declined to identify them.

But Matsumoto said IDG is interested in the Kealoha property for its location near a successful geothermal operation, which points to a likelihood of finding a resource.

“The current plant is under capacity,” he said. “Once we get a better look at the final RFP, that (property) will probably be part of our response.”

Drilling there would likely not impact PGV’s operation, Matsumoto said.

Avalor CEO Frank Bachinsky said the company is “evaluating properties all around the island.”

He declined to say where they are, but Brad Sorte said one of those properties includes a large parcel that borders his home.

Sorte said Avalor and property owner Sanford Iwata held a meeting with about a dozen neighbors a few months ago about potentially using the site for geothermal.

He said the neighbors weren’t too happy with the idea, though they understood Iwata, who couldn’t be reached for comment, was trying to keep them informed.

Many of them are concerned about their property values being affected, Sorte said, and noted that few if any are connected to the grid.

“Nobody was too thrilled because everyone is losing out for the most part,” he said.

But further geothermal development in the area may be inevitable, Sorte acknowledged.

“He (Iwata) did say if he doesn’t do it someone else will,” he said.

HELCO President Jay Ignacio said the power would be used to meet future demand and any excess energy could be used to reduce the amount of oil it burns to power the grid.

“It’s in order to get lower costs and pass that savings onto our customer,” he said. “That’s what’s driving us.”

PGV Plant Manager Mike Kaleikini said the company is still considering whether to submit a proposal.

It has a contract with HELCO for 38 megawatts and has regulator approval for up to 60 megawatts.

“We are going to take a look at it and probably decide here in a little bit,” he said.

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