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Hawaii geothermal power plant pushes back relaunch date

HILO — Hawaii’s only geothermal power plant announced it will push back the restart of commercial operations to the fourth quarter of 2020.

Parent company Ormat Technologies Inc. said Puna Geothermal Venture is expected to restart in the fourth quarter of this financial year, running from October through December, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Wednesday.

Officials said in December they hoped the Big Island plant would be operational by the end of 2019 and could sell electricity early in 2020, but the facility experienced equipment problems when attempting to come back online.

In late February the company said it hoped to resume operations in the second half of 2020.

The plant’s wells were isolated or covered by lava in the Kilauea volcano eruption that began in May 2018 and destroyed more than 700 homes. Lava destroyed the company’s substation and covered geothermal wells, while cutting off road access to the plant.

As of March 31, the company received $27.8 million from its insurance providers for property damage and business interruption. One insurer rejected Ormat’s claim for business interruption coverage and the company filed a lawsuit.

Permits required for the construction and operation of the substation were received, Ormat CEO Isaac Angel said Monday.

Two production wells also were drilled. While one was blocked after a flow test, Angel said the second is ready to be connected to the plant and expected to sustain partial production when transmission lines are rebuilt.

Hawaiian Electric seeks to reconstruct two segments of its 69-kilovolt overhead transmission lines, according to an application filed with the state Public Utilities Commission in June 2019. The matter is still before the commission.

Additional field recovery work including cleaning existing wells and drilling new ones continues, Angel said.

“Currently, we expect gradual increase of production to 29 megawatts by the end of the year, assuming all permits are received, transmission network upgrade is completed and field recovery successfully achieved,” Angel said.

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