(BIVN) – Potential geothermal resources near Maunakea and Kohala mountains on Hawaiʻi island have the “highest probability of viable electricity generation” according to a new report provided to the Hawaiian Homes Commission.
The report (Item C-4 on the Hawaiian Homes Commission August 21, 2023 meeting agenda) was submitted by a Geothermal Permitted Interaction Group established by the Commission in March 2023. The report mentions the Humuʻula area on Maunakea, as well as Upper Kawaihae on Kohala, as locations for potential geothermal activity, with Humuʻula “being most roadway accessible.”
The Permitted Interaction Group – or PIG, for short – was formed to study and recommend strategies related to possible geothermal development on Hawaiian Home Lands. The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is entitled to all royalties from geothermal projects located on Hawaiian Home Lands, according to State law.
Here is the text of the report:
August 21, 2023
TO: Members, Hawaiian Homes Commission (“HHC”).
FROM: Russell K. Kaupu; Property Development Agent, Office of the Chairman, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (“DHHL”).
SUBJECT: Report and Recommendations from the Geothermal Permitted Interaction Group.
None. This report is for information only. It is recommended, however, that the Geothermal PIG remain active to continue to work with the consultant engaged by DHHL to flesh out this opportunity.
On March 20, 2023, Interim HHC Chairman Ikaika Anderson established a Permitted Interaction Group pursuant to HRS Section 92-2.5 and HAR Section 10-2-16(b)(1) to “Study, Evaluate, and Recommend Strategies Related to Geothermal Exploration, Feasibility, Extraction, and or Use on Hawaiian Home Lands” (informally referred to as the “Geothermal PIG” or the “PIG”). The appointed members of the Geothermal PIG were Oahu Commissioner Russell Kaupu (Chair) and Hawaii Commissioners Michael Kaleikini and Makai Freitas. DHHL staff that have participated in meetings of the Geothermal PIG include Katie Ducatt, Brian Furuto, Kahana Albinio, Andrew Choy and Hokulei Lindsey. It is noted that Russell Kaupu (Chair) submitted a resignation from his HHC office this past June so he could accept a staff position at the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (as noted above). As such, it is incumbent upon the HHC Chairman to appoint a replacement Commissioner to the PIG, to designate a new Chair for the PIG, and to direct Russell Kaupu to remain active with the PIG as a DHHL staff member. The Committee has met a total of four times: on April 13, 2023, May 1, 2023, May 18, 2023, and July 6, 2023. Guests who have made presentations to the Geothermal PIG or otherwise participated in discussions include:
• Don Thomas (Geothermal Researcher/Advocate and Professor, UH-Hilo Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes);
• Nicole Lautze (Geothermal Researcher/Advocate and Professor, Director, Hawaiʻi Groundwater & Geothermal Resources Center; Professor, Hawai`i Institute of
Geophysics & Planetology;
• Robbie Cabral (Principal, WAIKA CONSULTING LLC);
• Malama Solomon (Principal, WAIKA CONSULTING LLC); and
• Mililani Trask (Principal, WAIKA CONSULTING LLC).
Professors Thomas and Lautze summarized the findings of a study they conducted for the Hawaii Groundwater and Geothermal Resources Center (HGGRC). Principals Cabral, Solomon and Trask presented information on the geothermal development work they have done in New Zealand and would like to do in Hawaii via their WAIKA CONSULTING LLC entity. The Geothermal PIG members also viewed a Renew & Rebuild Hawaii presentation by Nona Taute, PhD, University of Auckland Engineering, regarding geothermal development in Aotearoa, NZ and the Maori perspective on same.
Early on, the Geothermal PIG agreed upon the following four points/questions to focus discussions and, ultimately, to be addressed in this report:
1. What is the state of the technology and industry for geothermal power generation?
2. Are DHHL lands suitable sites for geothermal power generation (any early signs and what is the process for confirming)?
3. What should DHHL’s role be in developing this resource (just make land available, or also capital and political support)?
4. What are some alternative economic models and potential returns on investment?
It was later determined that point #4 is premature – better left to be worked on by the PIG going forward. It was also decided that the PIG should assist Kahana Albinio with getting the consultant contract for the legislatively funded field survey for geothermal exploration in order and executed (which was done – mahalo Commissioner Kaleikini). Without going into technical detail, which is beyond the scope of this report and will ultimately require the assistance of retained consultants to understand, the Geothermal PIG reports its findings on points 1 – 3 above as follows:
State of Technology and Industry. The processes by which: (a) preliminary studies are conducted to provide hints (i.e., higher probabilities) of sites where sufficient geothermal resource are present; (b) exploration wells are drilled to confirm site feasibility; and (c) electricity is ultimately generated using a binary, closed loop system are all “mature” technologies that are proven to be reliable. Such technology has successfully been employed in Hawaii at Puna Geothermal Venture since the early 1990s. There is a considerable amount of engineering that goes into a venture such as geothermal power production, but it is not the proverbial “rocket science”. As is true with select other ventures, success is primarily dependent upon location, location, location.
Suitability of DHHL Lands for Geothermal. While studies conducted by the Hawaii Groundwater and Geothermal Resources Center (HGGRC) show active geothermal activity (i.e., heat from the earth) at a number of DHHL properties, the sites with the highest probability of viable electricity generation are in the Humuula (Mauna Kea) and Upper Kawaihae (Kohala Mountain) areas, with Humuula being most roadway accessible. Projects built in Aotearoa, NZ have shown that careful, thoughtful geothermal development can be done in a way that is respectful of native people and culture. Per Mililani Trask, what makes DHHL lands suitable and acceptable for geothermal development – though she actively opposed such development on Hawaii island in the 70s and 80s – is that native people who own the resource are at the table and will receive a fair share of the economic return (Note: the Geothermal PIG was made aware of a March 17, 2014 Hawaii Attorney General’s Opinion that confirms that DHHL is entitled to 100% of royalties from geothermal projects on DHHL lands).
DHHL’s Role in Developing Geothermal. It was the consensus of the PIG that DHHL should not try to develop its geothermal resources on its own, but should, instead, work with a private party with both industry knowledge/experience and the ability to finance the venture. Two alternative models to venture with a private party were discussed: (1) Private Public Partnership (PPP), and (2) straight ground lease with a royalty-based concession. In either case, DHHL’s contribution to the venture should primarily be limited to making its land available, lending political support for the project (including identifying and pursuing government funding – both grants and loans), and providing cultural competency, native community relations, and beneficiary consultation.