HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Eighteen months after lava flows sidelined Puna Geothermal’s power plant, the company is taking steps to restart operations.
The company recently issued notices to Big Island residents that it will begin drilling on a 5,000-foot deep production well next Wednesday. It expects to complete the project by mid-January.
Big Island Mayor Kim said the company told him it could restart operations shortly after that.
“They were fairly well pleased ... that the damage was not as extensive as they thought it might be," Kim said.
But the district’s state senator believes it’s still too dangerous.
“They’re taking a risk that wasn’t there before. The entire geological structure they’re drilling into has changed,” said state Sen. Russell Ruderman.
“Right now there’s lava still flowing underneath them that they’re going to drill into.”
Ruderman said in recent days he’s heard several complaints from residents about loud noises from apparent construction activity coming from the geothermal power plant.
But he’s also worried about accidental releases of potentially harmful gases from the plant.
Experts questioned whether the company can restart in less than five months.
The company needs to rebuild the transmission lines destroyed by the lava and still need other approvals from the state Public Utilities Commission.
“Maybe the end of 2020," said Henry Curtis, executive director of the Life of the Land.