Lingle lauds Big Island carbon facility


POSTED: Monday, May 11, 2009

KAWAIHAE, Hawaii » Gov. Linda Lingle and Mayor Billy Kenoi joined groundbreaking ceremonies last month for a new carbon plant on the Big Island.

The Big Island Carbon facility will produce activated charcoal from macadamia nut shells bought from local nut farmers who now have to pay to dispose of the shells. The plant also will produce a biofuel.

The $20 million plant being built at Kawaihae is to add 30 jobs to the island for a process that integrates agriculture and high technology.

Land for the plant to be completed by the end of the year is leased from the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, represented at the groundbreaking by its chairman, Micah Kane.

“;This project is important on so many levels,”; Lingle said. “;It's not just 30 jobs. It's 30 families who will have a livelihood and can live a good life on the island.”;

She said investment in the plant by Denham Capital, a Houston-based private equity firm, sends a message to other potential investors in similar projects.

“;We need to move away from land development toward human capital,”; she said. “;This lifts my spirit and the spirit of the entire state.”;

Kenoi stressed the value of a new biomass conversion plant to the Big Island. The fuel will be used to power the plant and will be sold on the island.

In addition to the plant jobs, building the facility will involve 100 construction jobs, Kenoi said.

The plant will convert the extra-hard macadamia shells into granular activated carbon, which is used to clean up gas and other liquids by filtering out pollutants and impurities.

The charcoal also has pharmaceutical, environmental, military and a variety of other applications.

“;This is the end of the beginning,”; said Big Island Carbon Chief Executive Officer Rick Vidgen.

An activation kiln and charcoal reactor are about halfway built, and a boiler and turbine are nearly done, Vidgen said.

He said the plan fits well with the state's energy goals, including Home Lands' energy policies that include promotion of diverse renewable energy resources.