Refurbished Small-Hydro Project Provides New Power in Hawaii

Maui Electric Company (MECO) has received approval from the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to buy renewable hydroelectric energy from a small plant that once provided power to Pioneer Mill at Lahaina.

“While the 500 kilowatts that we will be able to purchase from this renewable plant may not appear significant, it affirms our commitment that when it comes to renewable energy to offset our use of imported fossil fuels, every bit counts,” said Ed Reinhardt, president of MECO. The original hydroelectric facility, located on the slopes of Kauaula Ridge above Lahaina, is more than 75 years old. It once provided power for Pioneer Mill Company, which was founded in 1862 and closed in 1999; the hydro plant was decommissioned and has been idle since that time. This renewable energy for MECO comes in addition to the bagasse-fueled and hydroelectricity the company currently purchases from HC&S, and to the 30 megawatts (MW) of wind energy to be added when the Kaheawa Pastures wind farm above McGregor Point comes online. Makila Hydro LLC, owned by the principals of Makila Land Company LLC, will repower, own and operate the old Kauaula hydro facility, including refurbishing the existing approximately 500 kW hydroelectric generator originally manufactured by Allis-Chalmers, a well-known maker of hydro generators. “With completion of the facility’s substantial refurbishment currently being undertaken by Makila Hydro, the people of Maui will once again enjoy clean, renewable energy from one of Hawaii’s oldest generation plants,” said Ray Starling, principle at Hawaii Energy Group, LLC, which is directing the refurbishment. Hydroelectric energy is considered “non-firm” or “as available,” since it depends on such elements as rainfall and weather conditions in the West Maui mountains. The 500 kW of hydropower and the upcoming Kaheawa wind farm will be added to more than 270 MW of “firm” and “non-firm” power available to MECO to serve Maui County’s growing energy needs.
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