Did you know... 20% of the Island of Hawai'i's power comes from geothermal energy?
Located in Puna (Kilauea East Rift Zone), is Hawai’i’s geothermal power plant, Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV). PGV has two air-cooled power plants, a binary system, and a combined cycle system. The plants together generate up to 38 megawatts of electricity. The first plant reached commercial operation in 1993, and the second followed in 2012. PVG is one of Ormat Technologies’ many global geothermal projects.
From 1997-2001, PGV replaced the burning of about 475,000 barrels of fuel oil a year. In that time period, the cost of one barrel was around $27.37, meaning PGV saved Hawaiian Electric about $13 million a year on fuel costs. The PVG plant reduces the amount of fuel oil that needs to be shipped from the refineries on O’ahu, which also then reduces the risk of oil spills.
The Puna Geothermal Venture originally generated electricity from 1993-2018, and comprised 31% of the electricity demand on the Island of Hawai’i (more than half of the island’s renewable energy production). However, in May of 2018, the Kilauea volcano erupted and the production field was partly buried beneath a lava flow causing the PVG power plant to shut down.
After two and a half years of work between Ormat Technologies and Hawaiian Electric, PVG resumed operations on November 5, 2020. Currently, the plant generates 24 megawatts of the original 38 MW. However, it still supplies around 20% of the power needs of the island.
The reappearance of geothermal energy on the island puts Hawai’i back on track to meet the goals established in the 2008 Hawai’i Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI). The HCEI is a partnership between the state of Hawai’i and the Federal U.S. Department of Energy and is an attempt to reduce Hawai’i’s use of petroleum and other fossil fuels for its energy needs. The initial goal was to have a 70% clean energy economy by 2030. Hawai’i’s renewable portfolio standard was amended to make Hawai’i the first state to have a legally required deadline of having 100% of its electricity come from renewable sources.
While geothermal energy currently only provides 5% of Hawai’i’s renewable electricity supplies, the reopening of PGV allows for even further development of the resource. The Hawai’i State Energy Office found in 2016 that the Island of Hawai’i may have more than 1,000 megawatts of geothermal reserves – enough to power Maui, the Big Island, and a quarter of O’ahu collectively.