It may be a merry Christmas for the last 20 Amfac employees on the island, but the days immediately after aren’t likely to be as bright.
On Friday, Dec. 27, the former Lihue Plantation power plant is scheduled to shut down, possibly for the final time.
The end of the agreement between Amfac and Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative, for Amfac to produce and KIUC to purchase electricity, ends that day.
“The decision to terminate the contract was Lihue Plantation’s,” said Alton Miyamoto, chief executive officer of KIUC.
“As a customer of Lihue Plantation, we were pleased to have been able to extend our contract, for the mutual benefit of KE/KIUC and the Amfac employees, as long as we did, through 2002,” he said.
The 20 employees at the power plant are scheduled to be become jobless that day.
Amfac’s once vast Kaua’i land holdlings are now down to two sugar mills (LP and Kekaha Sugar Company) and the LP power plant at the mill site along Haleko Road, according to an Amfac spokesman in Honolulu.
The Amfac spokesman said no one is expected to produce power at the plant after that day.
But there has been speculation that when the power is shut off after Christmas it won’t be off for long.
Mayor Bryan Baptiste has said he would be interested in looking for ways to keep the plant operational and burning bagasse.
Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative representatives had no comment when asked if there were talks underway to continue operating the plant.
Bagasse is the fibrous waste left over when heavy rollers squeeze out the sugar and molasses found in sugar cane. For decades, the light tan fibrous by-product has been burned to heat water that generates steam used to turn turbines, creating electricity for sugar plantations and for the Kaua’i electric grid.
The LP power plant produced nearly 20 percent of the island’s power at its peak years of production, and along with McBryde Sugar’s still-operating hydroelectric at upper Wainiha Valley on the North Shore, was responsible for most of the electricity produced from renewable resources on Kaua’i.
The Lihu’e plant burns bagasse biofuel when sugar harvesting and milling is underway, and diesel oil when no bagasse was available.
Enough megawatts of electricity are now produced by KIUC’s Lihu’e power station and the coming online of the Kauai Power Partners’ 26-megawatt turbine system off Ma’alo Road on the way to Wailua Falls to meet the island’s electric power demands. This makes the bagasse-fired plant unneeded.
Bagasse from Gay & Robinson’s mill at Kaumakani is now being trucked to Lihu’e for burning in the bagasse plant.
Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:email@example.com or 245-3681 (ext. 224).