(BIVN) – During a Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee hearing held to examine geothermal energy development in the United States, Senator Mazie Hirono (Hawaiʻi) had some questions for an executive of the parent company of Puna Geothermal Venture.
Sen. Hirono questioned Paul A. Thomsen, Ormat Technologies, Inc. Vice President of Business Development – Americas about the company’s effort to restore the PGV facility following the 2018 eruption of Kīlauea Volcano.
The following is a transcript of the conversation as it pertains to Puna:
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO: ORMAT owns the Puna Geothermal Venture plant on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. That plant provided about 30% of the power on that island until the lava from Kilauea Volcano caused the plant to have to be closed in May of 2018. As you proceed to reopen the plant, I’d like your commitment that your company will engage with the local community and other interested people on the Big Island to hear their views and concerns.
PAUL THOMSEN: Through the Chairman to Senator Hirono, you absolutely have my commitment to do that. ORMAT has been proud to operate that facility for some time and you know it’s a it’s a compelling story because we often talk about energy security. Yes and it’s it’s going to be an incredible success story to say that a geothermal facility surrounded by lava was able to, you know, weather the storm, come back online. And whether those geothermal projects are located in the Caribbean and hit by hurricanes, tropical storms, or sit through this… geothermal power plants are incredibly resilient, and so you have my full commitment as we go through the permitting process, as we build the new transmission lines, this is really going to be a story of rebirth. And I’m thrilled. I want to take a moment and thank our power plant manager Jordan [Hara] our senior Hawaiian Affairs Michael Kaleikini for working with the community to bring the roads back, bring the power back up, and bring new life to the kind of Eastern Pāhoa area. Additionally, what’s amazing about that story is that when that power plant went down, Hawaiʻi had to replace 30% of its load and it did that through the use of bunker fuel. So the emissions went up and – as the chairman pointed out earlier – the price of oil at that point was quite high and so I was shocked to hear the other day HELCO say the price on ratepayers went up by $2 or $3 dollars. Well that can be a stunning amount if you… consume a lot of power. And so we are doing everything in our power to get that facility back up and operating, and frankly hope that the geologic activity that occurred will make those wells hotter, more productive and maybe we’ll see a greater product out of the Puna Geothermal Venture moving forward.
HIRONO: Thank you. I’d like to thank your company for your sensitivity to the views of the community, as well as your commitment to the community.
Hirono also asked the Department of Energy to include all 50 states in its research, “especially as both Hawaiʻi and Alaska have very significant geothermal sources”. There was also discussion on enhanced geothermal systems.
“I just would like to note that for Hawaiʻi, while we do have large geothermal sources, that there are cultural concerns relating to the use of geothermal in Hawaiʻi,” Sen. Hirono added at the conclusion of her comments, “and I want to note that, because I certainly do not want to make light of those concerns in Hawaiʻi. Thank you, madam chair.”