Hawaii Electric Light Company signs contract to buy biomass electricity on Hawaii Island

Hawaiʻi Electric Light Company (HELCO) and Hū Honua Bioenergy announced the signing of a Power Purchase Agreement to provide Hawaiʻi Island with 21.5 megawatts (MW) of renewable, dispatchable firm capacity fueled by locally grown biomass.

Over the 20-year term of the agreement, the Hū Honua facility at Pepeʻekeo on the Hamakua Coast would supply electricity at pricing not tied to the price of oil.

The agreement requires approval by the Hawaiʻi Public Utilities Commission (PUC), with input from the state Division of Consumer Advocacy.

Hū Honua Bioenergy is converting the former Pepe‘ekeo Sugar Mill into a modern, efficient electric generation facility using renewable biofuel, including locally grown biomass, such as eucalyptus.

The facility will consist of a biomass fuel yard, steam boiler, turbine and generator. The previous plant used sugar cane waste and later, coal.

Estimates are that Hū Honua will be able to supply about 10 percent of the island’s electricity needs. The plant is anticipated to be completed approximately 18 months after refurbishment begins.

“Hū Honua’s facility will supply us firm renewable energy at prices that are stable and not tied to the unpredictable world oil market and that is good for our customers,” said Jay Ignacio, president of HELCO. “With the addition of Hū Honua to the HELCO power grid, over 50 percent of our island’s electricity will be provided by renewable resources.”

“Hū Honua will displace about 250,000 barrels of oil per year, keeping that money in the local economy,” said John Sylvia, CEO of Hū Honua.

The project will also support the local economy by creating about 80 to 100 jobs during the refurbishment phase and about 28 to 30 jobs when the facility begins operation; another 100 indirect jobs are anticipated in the timber and related industries.

“We look forward to providing dispatchable renewable energy to the grid, which complements the integration of intermittent sources such as wind and solar,” said Sylvia. “Our biomass-to-electricity process is cleaner than fossil fuel, is efficient and makes use of existing sustainable biomass on the island.”