Lihu’e power plant delayed by weather, delivery of parts

The new Lihue Energy Service Center (LESC), originally scheduled to be ready to generate electricity on July 1, is now planned for energizing next week.

Weather, late arrival of components, equipment problems and other woes kept Kauai Electric and plant partner Kauai Power Partners from hitting that mid-summer date, said Alton Miyamoto, KE vice president and general manager.

The power plant, which will crank 26 megawatts of power, or over one third of the island’s needs, has been undergoing online testing and the necessary fine-tuning that process entails, Miyamoto said.

Not only will the LESC’s first phase replace the power now provided by the Lihue Plantation power plant along Haleko Road, it will take a load off the older generating equipment at Port Allen, he said.

The LESC, located in a former canefield off the road to Wailua Falls (Ma’alo Road), is the home of what next week will become the largest single electric generator on the island.

The Lihue Plantation power plant, for example, is 14 megawatts, which at one time was around 10 percent of the island’s total electric need.

Once KE feels the LESC with the KPP unit is “commercially available,” and KE is comfortable with the reliability of the new plant, it will give Amfac a 60-day notice of intent to stop purchasing power from the LP plant.

The LP plant is now scheduled to close down at the end of this year, which could be very close to the date of the end of the 60-day notice period, he observed.

Miyamoto said it would be very expensive to keep the LP plant open and burn only bagasse, which Amfac now purchases from the island’s last remaining sugar grower, Gay & Robinson, on the Westside.

Bagasse is a biofuel created during the sugar-harvesting process.

Also, keeping the plant open would mean KE would have to continue paying Amfac a capacity charge for its expected contribution to KE’s power production, something not in the budget for KE now, Miyamoto explained.

Gay & Robinson burns bagasse to generate electricity for its own purposes, selling only a bit of excess juice to KE.

The Kauai Power Partners’ naphtha-burning, efficient new unit will allow some of the older KE units at Port Allen to be relegated to back-up power, as the Port Allen units are now fired in operating order with the most fuel-efficient generators seeing the most duty.

The KE portion of LESC includes an 11,500-foot-long underground water line stretching from Kapaia Reservoir through the site and on to De Mello Reservoir; a switchyard; transmission line; stormwater pooling area; and the fenced, landscaped, 14.5-acre LESC itself.

The KPP portion of LESC is the electric-generating unit, the sixth and final component of the first phase, a 26.4-megawatt unit.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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