Welcome to this edition of “Big Island of Hawaii News”. These are some of the local stories I’m tracking through Wednesday, 25 April 2012:
County Council discusses geothermal energy tonight (Tuesday); the future of geothermal power on Hawaii Island; and the uneasy future of Kona coffee.
Sources cited for this summary include the Associated Press, Stephens Media, the “Hawaii Tribune-Herald”, and “Hawaii 24/7 News”.
COUNTY COUNCIL SEEKING TESTIMONY ON GEOTHERMAL POWER
(Hawaii Tribune-Herald). The Hawaii County Council will hold a special meeting this evening at 6 in the Pahoa High and Intermediate School cafeteria to discuss the future of geothermal energy in Hawaii County. No action will be taken after the meeting. Geothermal power has become an hot topic at council meetings since the Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) began discussing a proposed second geothermal facility on Hawaii Island–most likely to be sited in West Hawaii. Hawaii County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong said councilmembers will bring the debate to the Puna community because “we really want to give the people an opportunity to participate in the process.” The PGV plant is located about 4.5 miles from the Pahoa school. HELCO recently filed a letter with the Public Utilities Commission seeking approval to begin receiving proposals from geothermal developers for new 50-megawatt facility. HELCO officials said that a new geothermal plant would likelybe on the Kona side where the most population growth is occurring. While the county council only has authority over zoning when it comes to approving new geothermal plants, Pele Defense Fund President said he still welcomes a chance to present the group’s position. Supporters of geothermal power also plan to speak.
THE FUTURE OF GEOTHERMAL POWER ON HAWAII ISLAND
(Stephens Media). Geothermal is becoming a hotter topic these days, eversince the Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) announced plans for a new geothermal power plant on Hawaii Island. Although Hawaii Island has hosted a geothermal production plant for more than a decade, and while geothermal is successful in some parts of the world, the Puna Geothermal Venture plant has yet to meet its stated output capacity on a regular basis. Paul Thomsen, the policy director for Ormat Technologies, which has geothermal operations around the world and which bought PGV in 2005, said there have been several problems with the Puna plant that have prevented the facility from reaching its potential. Thomsen said “when we procured the plant in 2004, it wasn’t in the best condition.” That, not geological differences between Hawaii Island and the western United States, accounted for PGV’s inability to meet its stated capacity for several years. In addition, higher costs have cut into PGV’s performance, with Thomsen noting that “it’s more expensive than the lower 48 (states) just due to your isolation.” And finally, Thomsen added that getting drilling rigs to Hawaii and Alaska contributes to extra operating expenses. Thomsen also mentioned that geothermal progress has been slowed by electrical utilities which “are notoriously risk averse”. Despite these hurdles, Thomsen believes the capacity issues have been solved and that “we’re confident with our plan and new wells drilled we’re going to meet and exceed our capacity.”
IS KONA COFFEE GOING DOWN THE DRAIN?
(Associated Press). Kona coffee farmers worry that a bill before a legislative conference committee could lead to the demise of their industry. Under state law, coffee marketed as Hawaii-grown must be inspected and certified by the state Department of Agriculture. However, House Bill 280 would make that inspection and certification process voluntary, rather than mandatory. Since 2009, budget cuts and layoffs have left the state Department of Agriculture with one coffee inspector position in West Hawaii Island, where much of the state’s coffee is grown. The staffing shortage means it could take one to four weeks for coffee to be inspected and cleared for export. Hawaii Island state representative Clift Tsuji, who chairs the House Agriculture Committee, says “the demise of coffee inspectors and certifiers because of a lack of funding or reduced funding has played a major and very critcal role.” Tsuji is drafting a new version of the bill which he hopes will resolve the issue. That bill should appear before a conference committee on Wednesday.
AINA LEA RULING TO BE APPEALED
(Stephens Media). State of Hawaii Deputy Attorney General William Wynhoff says the state’s Land Use Commission has just one option when the time comes to hold land developers accountable. That tool, says Wynhoff, is the ability to revert land classification back to agriculture or conservation. Wynhoff says that Judge Elizabeth Strance’s failure to uphold the LUC’s decision to revert DW Aina Lea’s land classification from urban to agriculture was a mistake. Strance ruled in favor of Aina Lea, ordering the LUC to rescind the reversion and allow the project to proceed. Wynhoff said the state intends to appeal the judge’s ruling. He said the time line for appeal depends on how Judge Strance rules on the motion to reconsider. If she does not rule at all, the state has until July to file its appeal. Wynhoff noted that the judge’s decision raises broader questions of what a court can order an individual commissioner to do.
HYBRID FLEET ROLLED OUT
(Hawaii Tribune-Herald). At 10 this morning (Tuesday), Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi plugged in the county’s first hybrid car at the West Hawaii Civic Center. The five 2012 Chevy Volts run on both electricity and gasoline. Each vehicle cost $47,000. The county will receive a $4,500 credit for each car. The new hybrid vehicles are anticipated to be used by the county departments of Parks and Recreation, Planning, and Housing and Community Development.
DEAD WOMAN IDENTIFIED
(Hawaii County Police Department). Police have identified the 77-year-old woman who died Thursday after she was involved in a four-vehicle crash at the intersection of Route 190 and Hinalani Street in Kailua-Kona. Police say that Alehandra Lauro of Kailua-Kona died from a medical condition and not as a result of the collision. Because of the autopsy report, her death will not be counted toward the offical fatality total for the year, which has been reduced from 12 to 11.
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORECAST FOR HAWAII ISLAND THROUGH WEDNESDAY, 25 April 2012:
Hilo and vicinity–Cloudy with a few windward showers. Considerable cloudiness at night.
Kailua-Kona and vicinity–Partly sunny with a few upslope showers.
Highs near 80. Lows near 65. Winds shifting to the east southeast, 8 to 16 mph, by Wedeseday.
Sunrise Wednesday–5:55 a.m. Sunset Wednesday–6:42 p.m. Total hours of daylight–12 hours, 46 minutes, and 40 seconds. Hilo tides for Wednesday: High tide–4:34 a.m./6:14 p.m. Low tide–12:10 a.m./10:46 p.m.
HAWAII ISLAND SURF FORECAST THROUGH WEDNESDAY, 25 April 2012:
Hapuna Beach breaks–flat. Kona and Banyans–flat to 1 foot. Ka’u and Pohoiki–5 to 6 feet. Hamakua–5 to 9 feet. Hilo and Honolii–4 to 5 feet.
For the latest community events, sports updates, and entertainment news, visit kbigfm.com, nativefm.com, kaparadio.com, and espnhawaii.com.
Thanks for dropping by!
Russ Roberts, editor
Laupahoehoe, Hawaii–along the beautiful Hamakua Coast