HECO Looking to Solve Seagrass Problem

Peter Rosegg
Peter Rosegg

HONOLULU (KHNL) -  Hawaiian Electric is trying to find a solution to a problem with seagrass growing outside its Kahe Power plant. The aquatic plant almost caused HECO to turn off the power in parts of the island.

"Very unusual situation," said Peter Rosegg, HECO spokesman. "In all the years Kahe Power plant has been there, we've never seen that before."

Last Thursday, kona winds and big waves ripped out tons of seagrass from the ocean floor, clogging the intake valves for the plant.

"We've never ever seen this particular sea grass," said Rosegg. "We never seen anything to the degree or the amount or frequency that this stuff came in."

The alfalfa sprout looking seagrass filled the valves every 20-minutes. Crews pulled out enough to fill more than six containers. HECO immediately called botanists at University of Hawaii.

"It's partly environmental problem because it is an environmental element," said Rosegg. "We wanna protect our equipment, and it's partly engineering problem. How do we get this stuff from getting into our equipment."

Jellyfish and marine debris clogged the intake valves before. And now, HECO will be researching other scenarios as well.

"You're always contending with the forces of nature, so we hope it won't happen again," said Rosegg. But Murphy's Law says if you don't plan for it to happen again, you're gonna be caught.

The intake valve works to cool the plant's generators. HECO officials say even before the seagrass problem, crews were cleaning the valves regularly, and constantly monitor them.