In 1881, King David Kalakaua had the bright idea of using Hawaii's fiery volcanoes to produce electricity and light the streets. It took technology the next century to catch up with the visionary king.
On the Big Island of Hawaii, nearly 20 percent of the electricity we consume is produced naturally by tapping the Earth's heat. This is enough to continually power 20,000 residences.
Geothermal is what's known as a "firm" energy resource. When the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine, heat from the Earth's interior is always available.
The slopes of Kilauea Volcano are the state's best resource.
Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV), the first and only commercial geothermal power plant in the state, has been generating sustainable electricity for Hawaii Island for 15 years. Under a Power Purchase Agreement with Hawaii Electric Light Company, PGV sends all the electricity it produces—30 megawatts—to the utility. It could provide much more. The plant is permitted to generate up to 60 megawatts and is negotiating for an 8-megawatt expansion.
PGV has invested heavily in new equipment and technologies to get where it is today.
Ormat Technologies, Inc., an international industry leader, purchased the plant in 2004, and has spent millions upgrading the facility for efficiency and safety. Recently Ormat was acknowledged as one of the leading energy producers in the field of "green" technology and for making its operations more efficient and environmentally sound.
Puna Geothermal Venture contributes directly to the island economy. It has 30 full-time employees and various other contractors. Many of them live in Puna District. PGV hires summer interns from nearby Pahoa High School and offers student scholarships to Hawai‘i Island Community College and UH-Hilo. Its staff is active in Hawaii Island business & economic development and works with state and county groups on ways to reduce the state’s dependence on fossil fuels.
PGV seeks to be a good neighbor, keeping the community informed. Newsletter and plant updates are sent to community. There is a 24-hour Response Line, and emissions and noise level data is posted on the PGV website and updated every five minutes.
“One day, geothermal power will be the state’s most valuable renewable energy resource,” says plant manager and Big Island native Mike Kaleikini. As the electricity demands grow, Puna Geothermal Venture stands ready to expand the project to meet the needs of the community.
Visitors are welcome. For a plant tour, individuals or groups, please call (808) 965-6233 for an appointment.
For employment opportunities, please visit: www.punageothermalventure.com
Puna Geothermal Venture