HECO promises plant would use ethanol
Hawaiian Electric Co. is offering to boost the ethanol industry to win support for the company's planned 100-megawatt power plant in Campbell Industrial Park.
The plant, awaiting approval from the state Public Utilities Commission, will be able to burn a blend of ethanol and naphtha, said Michael May, HECO president and chief executive officer.
Naphtha is a flammable liquid produced by distilling oil.
May said the company wants to start using ethanol when the plant is scheduled to open in 2009. And he said HECO is exploring the use of ethanol at its diesel-burning power plants.
"Our goal is to replace imported fossil fuels with local agricultural energy as far as possible," May said.
The company will be asking prospective suppliers to provide product specifications and will seek to set up long-term agreements.
That is welcome news to Oahu Ethanol Corp. President Daniel KenKnight, who is planning to build a facility capable of producing millions of gallons of ethanol from sorghum grown on former sugar lands.
HECO has already offered Leeward Coast residents electricity discounts, environmental monitoring and reporting, and money for community activities and conservation education. And it promises to use recycled water at the plant.
"It's not a slam dunk just because it's ethanol," said Henry Curtis, executive director of environmental group Life of the Land.
Curtis said producing ethanol in Hawaii raises other environmental concerns, including the use of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. And he questions where growers will get the water for their crops. He also questions whether ethanol can truly reduce the islands' dependence on oil.