HELCO seeks OK to rebuild transmission lines to PGV

HILO — A public hearing regarding Hawaii Electric Light Co.’s application to construct portions of overhead transmission lines that will reconnect Puna Geothermal Venture to the HELCO grid will be held next week in Pahoa.

The state Public Utilities Commission will hold the hearing at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the Pahoa Neighborhood Facility, 15-3022 Kauhale St.

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Statements may also be mailed to the Public Utilities Commission, 465 S.King St., Room 103, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813, or emailed to hawaii.PUC@hawaii.gov. Written statements should reference docket No. 2019-0119.

PGV, the state’s only geothermal power plant, was isolated by lava during the 2018 eruption of Kilauea volcano, when lava destroyed a substation and covered a few geothermal wells, as well as cut off road access to the plant.

Mike Kaleikini, PGV’s senior director, Hawaii affairs, said the 2018 eruption also covered several of the poles and transmission lines that connected PGV to the grid.

While the application to rebuild was initiated by the utility, Kaleikini said that “in order for PGV to export power and return back to full capacity, these transmission lines are required.”

Under a rebuild agreement between the two entities, HELCO, which is transitioning to the name Hawaiian Electric, will reconstruct two segments of its 69-kilovolt transmission line that are approximately 1-mile-long and 1.5-miles-long, according to the application filed in June 2019.

The utility had requested the application be approved by Oct. 15, 2019.

The docket, however, was suspended by the PUC in August, pending additional information regarding project permits and a renegotiated power purchase agreement between the two companies.

Earlier this month, it was announced that the electric utility was seeking the approval of an amended purchase agreement with PGV that will, among other things, de-link the cost of power from the price of oil.

In a November letter to the PUC, Kaleikini wrote that all permits required to operate the facility remain in effect, and no additional permits are needed to resume operations.

The PUC resumed the docket on Dec. 31.

PGV had previously anticipated returning to operation by the end of 2019, Kaleikini said Wednesday, but it experienced some equipment problems when attempting to come back online, and the startup was postponed.

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The target now is sometime in the first quarter of this year, he said.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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