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PGV to remain offline for at least 18 months

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Lava flanks Puna Geothermal Venture on June 3 in lower Puna. Special thanks to Blue Hawaiian Helicopters.

Ormat Technologies, owners of Puna Geothermal Venture, revealed in a Wednesday earnings call that reopening the power plant would take at least 18 months.

Isaac Angel, CEO of Ormat, said in the company’s second-quarter earnings call on Wednesday that reopening PGV as soon as possible is a priority, but even when conditions at the facility are safe enough to resume operations, the reactivation process will take time.

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“Unfortunately, as we all know, it’s very, very difficult to estimate how long the Puna flow will continue, even though there is (a) decrease (in activity),” Angel said. “In any case, if the flow will … stop completely, or even it could be very slow, we will be able to look into bringing the power plant back. It will take us at least 18 months to do so.”

The plant was shut down early May after the lower Puna eruption of Kilauea. Geothermal wells were quenched with cold water and sealed, with three of the wells subsequently overrun by lava. Lava also consumed a warehouse and a substation.

PGV representative Mike Kaleikini said Angel’s estimate of 18 months seems accurate, but emphasized that conditions around the facility are still far from sufficiently safe for any work to resume.

“Our plan is, when conditions allow, to go back in and reassess the situation,” Kaleikini said. “To see what needs to be done to get back online.”

During the earnings call, Angel also pointed out that the shutdown of PGV cost Ormat approximately $7 million in estimated earnings before interest and taxes. While Angel said some of that cost will be recouped by loss-of-business insurance, Ormat’s insurance policy requires that the company pay for the cost of the first 30 days of nonoperation, which Angel said is approximately $3 million.

Angel also said employees of PGV are still being paid full-time, and noted Ormat made a $150,000 donation to the Puna community.

Rhea Lee-Moku, spokeswoman for Hawaii Electric Light, said the island still has sufficient power generation despite the closure of PGV, which Angel said accounted for nearly 30 percent of the island’s electricity before the shutdown.

Lee-Moku said Hu Honua Bioenergy’s biomass plant near Pepeekeo — which will provide approximately 21.5 megawatts of renewable power to the island by burning organic materials — is still on schedule to be completed by the end of this year.

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In addition, Lee-Moku said HELCO requested proposals for other renewable energy plans before the eruption began, although she added that the proposals remain confidential.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com