Kauai ethanol plant is planned for 2008
Gay & Robinson says sugar conversion will save 230 jobs
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KAUMAKANI, Kauai » After years of delay, the county's first sugar-to-ethanol plant might be coming to Kauai after all.
As early as 1998, Gay & Robinson of Kauai began announcing plans to turn their sugar crop into ethanol. But delays in the permitting process and securing funding have kept the project from breaking ground.
The plant, which would be built in the heart of Gay & Robinson's sugar fields in Kaumakani, could open as early as next year, said Gay & Robinson Treasurer Clem Lum.
The plan would save 230 jobs in the sugar plantation and add dozens more in the next year, Lum added.
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KAUMAKANI, Kauai » An investment of $80 million announced yesterday will likely turn Kauai's west side once again into the tassle-filled land of sugar it has been for more than 100 years.
This time, however, sugar plantation officials believe the same crop that their grandparents cultivated will provide a renewable energy source for their grandchildren.
Gay & Robinson announced yesterday that it has secured funding to build both a 12 million-gallon-per-year ethanol plant and a biomass boiler and turbine to produce energy for the plant and for the local electricity company.
The project: Now in the permitting stage, it is set to open in mid- to late 2008.
Production: 12 million gallons of ethanol made from sugar juice and molasses
Secondary plans: A biomass boiler and turbine facility, both to power the ethanol plant and to sell to a local utility company
Partners: Pacific West and Gay & Robinson
The sugar-to-ethanol plant would be the first in the United States, producing more than a quarter of what is currently needed in Hawaii as a gasoline additive, officials with the company said yesterday.
Plans have been in the works to build the ethanol plant for nearly a decade, but delays with permitting and funding have pushed back the project.
With the announcement of the deal, however, the plant is once again scheduled to open next year, Gay & Robinson Treasurer Clem Lum said yesterday.
"Money has always been an issue," he said.
The $39 million ethanol plant, to be built in Kaumakani, the heart of the Garden Isle's sugar fields, is expected to use sugar juice and molasses as raw material. It has already received a permit from the state for air pollution, and is in the permitting process at the county level.
It is scheduled to produce 12 million gallons of ethanol per year. Current state law requires that gasoline be blended with 10 percent ethanol so as to reduce the state's dependence on foreign oil. But the state has had to import ethanol without a local supplier.
The rest of the funding announced yesterday, Lum said, will go to cultivating more sugar cane lands, building the biomass plant and hiring more staff.
Future business plans call for additional stages of energy production, including biodiesel production, a methane recovery system, the processing of municipal solid waste, hydropower, the conversion of biomass into liquid fuels and solar energy production, company officials said yesterday.
"We're excited to partner with Pacific West Energy and begin transforming G&R from a commodity raw sugar producer to a provider of renewable and alternative energy for Kauai and Hawaii," said Alan Kennett, president of Gay & Robinson, in a news release.
Pacific West Energy LLC, a Vancouver, Wash.-based firm, worked to secure the funding for the project and will partner with Gay & Robinson to form Gay & Robinson Ag-Energy LLC. A management team with Pacific West with experience in developing renewable-energy projects worldwide will come to Kauai to help develop the project, officials with both companies said.