PGV now accessible thanks to ‘pioneer road’

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Lava flanks Puna Geothermal Venture on June 3 in lower Puna.

Puna Geothermal Venture has access to its lava-locked site after a “pioneer road” was cut over the large lava channel from the recent Kilauea eruption.

Access was restored as of Dec. 14, though work is ongoing to improve the path, said Mike Kaleikini, senior director of Hawaii affairs for Ormat Technologies, PGV’s owner, on Thursday.

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“Our guys can get to the site,” he said. “It’s not like a smooth grade.”

The hardened channel was about 250 yards to 300 yards across and about 60 feet tall at its highest point, he said.

Kaleikini said no “abnormal temperatures” were found during road construction. He said the rock was mostly packed down so crews didn’t have to dig down deep into the channel.

PGV needed road access to fully assess the status of the plant, sandwiched between the channel from fissure 8 and a string of other volcanic vents.

“It looks like the plant is in pretty good shape,” Kaleikini said.

PGV will know more after it restores power and water service.

He said PGV is talking with Hawaii Electric Light Co. about getting permission to place power lines across the channel alongside the road.

A county waterline that remains in service can be accessed by connecting near Highway 132, Kaleikini said.

“Once we get the power, it will be a big boost for us,” he said. “We can energize all the equipment.”

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Kaleikini said he didn’t have an estimate for how long that could take. It remains unclear when the plant, which has a capacity of 38 megawatts, will be able to restart.

Kaleikini previously estimated 18 months.

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