A New Mexico-based energy technology company has chosen Molokai for one of four sites on which it plans to build what it calls the world's first utility-scale, zero-emissions hydrogen power plants.
The Molokai plant, proposed by Jetstream Wind Inc., would use electricity from wind or solar or a combination of the two to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen would then be burned in a turbine - similar to what is used in a natural-gas-fired power plant - and would generate enough electricity to power 6,000 homes and businesses, the company said.
The company cannot disclose the exact location on Molokai for the plant because negotiations for the site are still under way, said Xavier Marquez, Jetstream Wind Inc. chief networking officer.
The company hopes to break ground in 30 to 60 days, Marquez said.
Yet, Hawaiian Electric Co. has not had any contact with the company about selling the power generated by its proposed new plant, said Peter Rosegg, HECO spokesman.
If Jetstream Wind is going to sell power to the utility on Molokai, it will need a Power Purchase Agreement with Maui Electric Co., said Maria Tome, Hawaii State Energy Office renewable transportation energy program manager. Maui Electric is a subsidiary of HECO.
Jetstream Wind began exploring the islands to launch its new energy venture about 16 months ago, Marquez said.
"There are numerous reasons for Hawaii," Marquez said. "The topography of the island works well for us to get peak production."
The company outlined its plans yesterday in New Mexico, the site of its first plant. That facility is expected to cost $219 million and be funded by private sources, said Henry Herman, company CEO.
Herman said Hawaii was chosen because of 2006 legislation encouraging the development of renewable hydrogen-based businesses by offering tax credits through the Hawaii Renewable Hydrogen Program backed by a $10 million Hydrogen Investment Capital Special Fund.
Jetstream Wind believes it can provide consistent power to the grid using renewable sources without any of the emissions that come with generating hydrogen from fossil fuels.
The potential of renewable-to-hydrogen power plants is being proved through tests, but it wasn't until recently that the technologies needed to make it work were even available, Herman said.
"We're the first company that had the foresight to jump on creating a combinatory system and putting the pieces together to make it viable for the public and for electrical generation," he said.
"Basically it's 8th-grade science scaled up very, very large," Herman said. "We need to go green to free us from our dependence on foreign oil."
Citing proprietary concerns, Herman provided few technical details about the inner workings of Jetsteam Wind's proposed plant in New Mexico.
The facility, which broke ground July 4 in Truth or Consequences, N.M., is the company's first power plant, and is expected to generate 150 construction jobs and 30 permanent jobs.
* The Associated Press contributed to this report.