December 12, 2006

HAWAII: Powering Paradise with biofuels

Hawaii is rich in many things except the fuels that power industry, agriculture, transportation, and urban lifestyles, It imports almost all of the fuels it uses. The search for alternative energy sources has been an ongoing challenge for decades. Its quest is a microcosm of America's quest for a new way to address the need for clean renewable energy. What does it take to power "paradise"?

Hawaii's Public Utilities Commission has determined that it is time to find out. Here is a report from the Honolulu's Star Bulletin newspaper about the commitment the top utility in Oahu has made - with the firm resolve of the state government - to fuel its new power plant with ethanol and biodiesel. Rather than wait until commercial-scale technology has been proven elsewhere, in Hawaii the vision and commitment is coming first.

Here is a portion of the report ...

Biofuel to power HECO plant
A pact with the state has the firm using renewable fuels like biodiesel and ethanol
By B.J. Reyes, Star Bulletin

HAWAIIAN Electric Co.'s proposed 110 megawatt power plant at Campbell Industrial Park would be run entirely on renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel under an agreement with the state's consumer advocate.

The commitment to power the plant completely on biofuels was finalized last week and submitted in writing to the Public Utilities Commission yesterday, at the opening of a weeklong series of public hearings about HECO's application to build the $137 million plant.

A commitment to alternative fuels -- those made mostly from agricultural products such as corn, soybeans, sugar and their byproducts -- would reduce the amount of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, that account for an estimated 90 percent of the state's energy needs.

HECO originally had said it would initially use low-sulfur diesel and other more traditional fuels while pursuing a switch to alternatives and renewables as those fuels became more commercially available.

Robbie Alm, HECO's senior vice president for public affairs, said the state's promotion of alternative energy played a role in the company agreeing to the 100 percent commitment.

"After looking over what we believe is the reality of biofuels -- ethanol and biodiesel markets -- we felt we could make that commitment," Alm said.

As of April, 80 percent of all gasoline sold in Hawaii is required to be blended with 10 percent ethanol. Additionally, lawmakers this year passed a bipartisan package of bills aimed at lessening the state's dependence on imported fossil fuels through conservation and development of alternative fuels.

The first ethanol processing plants in Hawaii are expected to come online by 2007, while three of the state's largest landowners -- Maui Land & Pineapple Co., Grove Farm Co. and Kamehameha Schools -- in July announced the formation of a partnership to study the viability of a large-scale biofuels industry in the islands.

For more of this article, click HERE

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