Geothermal plant plans to be back online

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii’s only geothermal power plant is nearly ready to begin producing electricity again following delays in rebuilding the facility that was partially destroyed by lava two years ago, company officials said.

Puna Geothermal Venture plans to restart operations by the end of September, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

The 38-megawatt power plant’s geothermal wells in Puna were isolated or covered by lava in the Kilauea volcano eruption that began in May 2018. Lava destroyed the company’s substation and cut off road access to the plant.

Nevada-based parent company Ormat Technologies Inc. expects to host virtual community meetings to provide operational updates along with other information and to answer questions from the public.

The company, which canceled in-person meetings in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, scheduled its first online meeting for Wednesday, followed by another Nov. 11.

Officials said they hoped the Big Island plant would be operational by the end of 2019 so electricity could be sold again early in 2020. But the facility experienced equipment problems and permitting issues when attempting to come back.

COVID-19 also hampered the work, the company said.

Puna Geothermal supplied 31 percent of electricity on Hawaii island two years ago.

After restarting, the company expects to gradually ramp up to produce 29 MW of power by the end of the year while work continues to restore capacity to 38 MW.

The company plans to expand the plant’s full capacity by another 8 MW in 2022.