State regulators have approved a multiyear contract for Maui-based Pacific Biodiesel to supply Hawaiian Electric Co. with 250,000 gallons a year of locally produced biodiesel.
The green fuel - made by recycling used cooking oil from Hawaii restaurants - will be used to power a new, $20 million backup plant HECO is building at the Honolulu International Airport.
Under the three-year contract approved by the Public Utilities Commission, HECO can buy up to an additional 1 million gallons of biodiesel annually, according to Pacific Biodiesel spokeswoman Beth Mathias.
Ray Michaels, owner of Maui Plumbing, fuels his work truck at Pacific Biodiesel on Wednesday afternoon in Kahului. Michaels said he likes to support a local business. “This Dodge runs better on biodiesel than regular diesel,” he said. Pacific Biodiesel will be supplying Hawaiian Electric Co. with 250,000 gallons a year of locally produced biodiesel, following the approval of a contract by state regulators.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The company's Maui plant will handle pre-processing of the used cooking oil before sending it to the company's new Big Island refinery for production, Mathias said.
The company said its Big Island facility uses a new technology developed with grant money from the Hawaii Renewable Energy Development Venture that "removes virtually all trace impurities and results in biodiesel that is clear instead of amber." It claims the fuel is the highest quality biodiesel available in the country.
"Pacific Biodiesel is excited to provide the nation's best quality biodiesel for this new backup generation facility and all other customers," President Bob King said in a statement. "Every contract helps to assure more renewable fuel in Hawaii, supports the success of the biofuel industry and has helped us grow our local company to over 50 employees."
Mathias said the demand for biodiesel continues to grow because of Hawaii's "very aggressive renewable energy goals," which include achieving 70 percent clean energy by the year 2030 as spelled out in the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative.
HECO's airport plant will use four diesel generators to supply up to 10 megawatts of electrical power. The utility said the plant is expected to come on line the middle of next year.
HECO has a deal with the state Department of Transportation's Airports Division to be able to use electricity from the facility for up to 1,500 hours per year to supply the Oahu grid.
But, in the event of an emergency or natural disaster, the plant will be able to separate itself automatically from HECO's Oahu grid to supply power directly to the airport, providing emergency power to critical airport operations within five minutes of an outage, and be able to supply 65 percent of the airport's total energy needs.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.