Gay & Robinson to transition sugar operations to biofuel production

PAKALA, Kauai (KHNL) - Kauai's only sugar producer is going to stop growing crops for food.

Gay & Robinson made the announcement Wednesday that it is getting out of the business after 116 years.

The private, family-owned company told workers at the start of their shift, that they were going to begin producing ethanol.

The company's decision to leave the business is due to the increasing cost of maintaining its sugar operations.

That leaves Hawaii with just one remaining sugar plantation and mill in Hawaii, Alexander & Baldwin on Maui.

Governor Linda Lingle issued the following statement regarding the announcement:

"While sugar has been an integral part of the heritage and way of life for generations of Kauai residents, we are encouraged that Gay & Robinson will continue to be an important part of the island's economic future.  The company's transition from sugar to renewable energy signals a new chapter for Kaua'i and will help position the island for a more secure, clean energy future that is less dependent on imported oil.  The State will work closely with Gay & Robinson and Pacific West Energy, LLC to assist during the transition, including expediting the permits and approvals necessary to transform this kama'âina company."

The company will also expand its hydroelectric power production by installing an additional hydro unit that will increase capacity by an additional 5 to 10 megawatts of power to supply renewable energy to Kauai's power grid.