It Isn’t Oil!
Geothermal energy: Clean, stable, always available
In 1881, King David Kalakaua had the bright idea of using Hawaii’s fiery volcanoes to produce electricity and light the streets. It took technology the next century to catch up with the visionary king.
On the Big Island of Hawaii, nearly 20 percent of the electricity we consume is produced naturally by tapping the Earth’s heat. It is firm, strong power that the island truly depends upon, enough to continually power 20,000 residences.
When the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, heat from the Earth’s interior is always available.
|Puna’s geothermal power station
delivers 30 megawatts of power,
with potential to deliver much more.
(Photo: Puna Geothermal Venture)
Puna Geothermal Venture, the only commercial geothermal facility in the state, has been generating sustainable electricity for the Big Island for 15 years.
Under a Power Purchase Agreement with Hawaii Electric Light Company, PGV sends all the electricity it produces—30 megawatts—to the utility. It could provide much more.
The slopes of Kilauea Volcano are the state’s best resource. The only other island with significant geothermal resources is Maui, but its potential is considerably less.
Puna Geothermal Venture invested heavily in new equipment and technologies to get where it is today. State-of-the-art equipment is used to drill wells deep into volcanic reservoirs—a mile or more—and bring up hot fluid and steam. The steam drives turbines that generate electricity.
Geothermal is also ‘green’: No oil or other fossil fuel is used in the operation.
The plant has near “zero” emissions because the brine and gases that are left over are injected back into the Earth, well below the water table, through another set of wells called re-injection wells.
This is called a binary or closed-loop circulation system, meaning that no excess gases or fluids reach the open air. It is one of the most advanced methods for producing geothermal energy. All PGV wells are this type.
Other uses are possible besides generating electricity. Geothermal could contribute to the manufacture of other technologies, such as hydrogen fuel cells. It could also provide direct heat applications such as drying fruit and lumber, greenhouse propagation and aquaculture projects—even heating buildings.
And there are economic benefits. Puna Geothermal Venture has 30 full-time employees and various other contractors. Many live in Puna District.
PGV seeks to be a good neighbor, keeping the community informed of its activities via newsletter, a 24-hour response line and online information.
Geothermal energy is the backbone of renewable energy resources in Hawaii. As the electricity demands grow, Puna Geothermal Venture stands ready to expand the project to meet the needs of the community.
Tours of the facility, for groups or individuals, are available but must be booked in advance. Call (808) 965-6233.