PGV reboot delayed again

Commercial operations at Puna Geothermal Venture are expected to begin in the fourth quarter, said parent company Ormat Technologies Inc. on Monday as part of a first-quarter earnings update.

Hawaii’s only geothermal power plant was isolated by lava during the 2018 eruption of Kilauea volcano, when lava destroyed a substation and covered a few geothermal wells, as well as cut off road access to the facility.

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PGV officials hoped the plant would be operational by the end of 2019 and could sell electricity early in 2020, but the facility experienced some equipment problems when attempting to come back online, and the startup was postponed.

During an earnings call Monday, Ormat CEO Isaac Angel said permits required for the construction and operation of the substation were received.

Two production wells also were drilled. While one was blocked after its flow test, Angel said the second is ready to be connected to the power plant and is expected to enable partial production as soon as transmission lines are rebuilt.

Hawaiian Electric is seeking to reconstruct two segments of its 69-kilovolt overhead transmission lines that are approximately 1 mile long and 1.5 miles long, according to the application filed with the state Public Utilities Commission in June 2019.

The matter is still before the PUC.

Additional field recovery work, such as cleaning out existing wells and drilling new ones, is continuing, Angel said.

“Currently, we expect (a) gradual increase of production to 29 megawatts by the end of the year, assuming all permits are received, transmission network upgrade is completed and field recovery (is) successfully achieved.”

Angel said, too, that all insurers accepted and started paying for the cost to rebuild the destroyed substation, while only some of Ormat’s many insurers are paying for business interruption coverage.

As of March 31, the company had received $27.8 million from its insurance providers for property damage and business interruption.

One insurer, however, rejected Ormat’s claim for business interruption coverage, and the company filed suit against that insurer.

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Ormat contends the suit won’t impact its plans for restarting the Puna facility.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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