Hawaiian Electric backs Ka'u biofuels project - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaiian Electric backs Ka'u biofuels project

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HONOLULU and KA'U (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaiian Electric and a local biolfuels start-up have signed an agreement for fuel production on the Big Island that will generate jobs as well as fuel for electricity.

Aina Koa Pono, founded by Melvin Chiogioji and Kenton Eldridge, intends to set up a 13,000-acre energy farm on leased land in Ka'u, the southernmost district of Hawaii County, on agricultural land described as having lain fallow for 14 years.

"We are very pleased to award this first contract as a result of our request for proposals for locally grown and processed biofuels," said Hawaiian Electric Executive Vice President Robbie Alm.

The company expects to use hundreds of construction workers beginning in 2012 and 100 workers after opening in 2013 Initial plans include growing sorghum and eucalyptus for biofuels, while also purchasing biomass from Big Island farmers.

"Our island currently utilizes the highest level of renewablke energy in the state," Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi wrote in a Thursday letter to Chiogioji. "Please remember it is critically important to include our community in your planning."

Chiogioji said the plant will be designed for 16 million gallons of renewable biofuel per year.

"The time has come to take a bold step," Chiogioji said in a statement. "This partnership is critical in helping Hawaii reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels."

Earlier in the day, Maui-based Pacific Biodiesel announced on HawaiiNewsNow Sunrise that it has doubled the capacity for its own biomass facility under construction outside Hilo. The company hopes to be up and running in time for the APEC summit.

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