5 years after lava nearly destroyed it, Puna Geothermal announces expansion plans
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Puna Geothermal Venture is moving ahead with plans to expand capacity, five years after the 2018 Kilauea eruption nearly destroyed the power plant.
But the proposal is getting plenty of pushback from Puna residents who worry about the potential risk from future lava flows.
“We dodged the bullet in 2018, meaning the plant wasn’t taken out. And if it had, it could have resulted in some significant impacts,” said former Big Island Councilmember Eileen O’Hara, executive director of Malama O Puna.
In a draft Environmental Impact Statement filed on Monday, Puna Geothermal said it wants to expand its existing capacity by 21% initially and then by nearly 60%.
Supporters said the expansion will help boost the state’s goal of becoming 100% independent of fossil fuels by the year 2045.
“These types of projects will help us reduce costs in the long run. The more we can scale up firm renewables, then the cost efficiency also increases,” said state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, Wahiawa.
He said the expansion is also good for the economy.
“That means more jobs, a lot more jobs,” said Dela Cruz.
“A lot of intermittent technologies. ... do employ people for construction but not at the same level as firm, renewable.”
But area residents say Puna Geothermal is a big source of air and noise pollution.
“This geothermal resource can exude some noxious gases .. that has left a sour taste in the mouths of folks,” said O’Hara.
The expansion plan still requires the approval of the state Public Utilities Commission.
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