Aloha Biodiesel

Hawaiians are on a mission to expand the use of local renewable and alternative energy sources to supply the islands' power needs. The use of locally produced biodiesel is critical to the state's success.
By Frank Zaworski | January 01, 2009
Isolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is rightfully more sensitive than most states to its energy vulnerability resulting from a reliance on off-island sources of fuel. Hawaiians are also sensitive to the need to protect their paradise from the dangers of fossil fuel pollutants.

For these reasons, Hawaii, in partnership with the Hawaiian Electric Co., has taken a leading position among states seeking to power its electrical energy needs from local renewable and alternative energy sources. The use of biodiesel is an important part of Hawaii's energy mix.

In February 2007, Hawaiian Electric Co. and Maui Electric Co. announced plans to build a $151 million, 40 MMgy continuous flow biodiesel refinery at Waena, Maui. The plant, which is expandable to 120 MMgy, is expected to come on line in 2010.

The plant, being developed and operated by Hawaiian Electric's subsidiary BlueEarth Biofuels LLC, will supply biodiesel to power Maui Electric's generators. About 85 percent of Maui Electric's generation capacity could potentially be converted from petroleum diesel to biodiesel.

On the Big Island of Hawaii, Hawaiian Electric is building a 110-megawatt generating station. Planned to come on line in 2009, the plant will be powered 100 percent by biodiesel supplied by a unit of Imperium Renewables Hawaii LLC.

Local Sources
A goal for Hawaii and Hawaii's electricity providers is to produce biodiesel from locally grown feedstocks so that the fuel doesn't have to be brought in from the U.S. mainland. Crops being investigated for biodiesel include jatropha, palm and kukui nuts.

In July of this year, Hawaiian Electric and Maui Electric, Hawaii's HR BioPetroleum, and major landowner Alexander & Baldwin Inc. agreed to develop a commercial-scale microalgae facility on land owned by AB next to Maui Electric's Ma'alaea power plant. Carbon dioxide emissions from the plant will be recycled into the facility as nutrients for the algae.

The algal oil produced would be converted to biodiesel and the remnants made into high-value byproducts such as animal feed. The facility could be operational by 2011.

Hawaii to Lead the Nation
Hawaiian Electric has joined with the state of Hawaii in a comprehensive agreement to decisively move the state away from its dependence on fossil fuels for electricity and ground transportation. The historic accord is an achievement stemming from months of discussions and work on the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative. This effort, which began in January 2008 between the state and U.S. DOE, seeks to move Hawaii toward having 70 percent of its energy use come from clean energy sources by 2030.

The agreement will reduce by many years the process of advancing the state to a clean energy-driven economy by accelerating regulatory changes. Highlights of the agreement include:

›A commitment to integrate as much as 1,100 megawatts (MW) of already identified additional renewable energy on the Hawaiian Electric companies' grids (700 MW to be implemented within five years).

›The construction of an undersea cable connecting Maui, Molokai and Lanai into one electrical grid to allow the integration of an additional 400 MW of renewable wind power generated in Maui County for transmission to Oahu.

›A requirement that 40 percent of electric power come from renewable resources by 2030, doubling the current renewable portfolio standard requirement law.

›Changing the way Hawaiian Electric is compensated by moving away from a business model that places reliance on increased electric sales.

›A commitment from the Hawaiian Electric companies to retire older fossil-fuel-powered energy generation plants as Hawaii moves to a renewable energy future.

›The conversion of existing fossil fuel generators to renewable biofuels, ultimately using crops grown locally and in a sustainable manner.

"With this agreement, Hawaii moves to the forefront in energy leadership in the nation," says Kevin Kolevar, assistant secretary of the U.S. DOE, whose office helped negotiate the agreement. "Hawaii's vision will prove to be a boon to the local economy and will lead to more stability and long-term reductions in the cost of energy in Hawaii. It will provide future generations with significant independence from imported fuel.

"We appreciate the opportunity to participate in this critical effort led by Gov. Linda Lingle and her administration, in particular the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism's energy division, and the contribution of time and expertise of the U.S. Department of Energy," says Constance Lau, chairman of the board for the Hawaiian Electric Co. "We are committed to making these plans a reality and working together with the state to achieve a more secure, economically viable and environmentally responsible energy future for Hawaii."

Frank Zaworski is a freelance writer for Biodiesel Magazine. Reach him at [email protected].
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