National Business

Hawaii geothermal plant will need state approval to rebuild

A Hawaii geothermal power company must win state approval before rebuilding transmission lines wiped out by volcanic eruption, reports said.

The state Public Utilities Commission sent a letter to Puna Geothermal Venture that said the company must hold a public hearing and receive permission before rebuilding, news outlets reported Wednesday.

Puna Geothermal is in negotiations with Hawaii Electric Light Company for a new power purchase agreement that would set terms and prices for electricity from a rebuilt facility, a company official said.

The plant in Pohoiki on the Big Island was damaged in last year's Kilauea eruption. The lava flow that destroyed more than 700 homes in Lower Puna also damaged the company's facilities in the area.

The exact route the previous transmission lines followed is no longer available, but Hawaii Electric Light plans to reconstruct the lines along a new road Puna Geothermal opened across the lava to access its property.

The company plans to resume production by the end of this year but is reviewing the letter to determine how it might affect plans.

The company is already experiencing some resistance to rebuilding.

Big Island residents should consider the wisdom of restarting the plant "in one of the most seismically active volcanic lava zones on the planet," Marco Mangelsdorf, president of ProVision Solar Inc., said in a written statement Tuesday.

The utilities commission will give residents a voice in that decision, "especially in light of alternate means to generate renewable energy at significantly less risk and lower cost," he said.

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