Puna Geothermal Venture returns to service more than two years after Kilauea eruption

Published on November 16, 2020 by Chris Galford

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The Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) announced the utility has recently entered back into service, supplying electricity to the Hawaii Island grid, following its closure due to the eruption of the Kilauea volcano in 2018.

Before it was knocked offline two and a half years ago, the 38 MW geothermal facility represented one of the largest and most stable renewable energy resources in Hawaii, responsible for a hefty 15 percent chunk of its island’s firm generation capacity. With its return, Hawaiian Electric’s generation reserve margins are bolstered, allowing more leeway when other generators require maintenance.

Hawaiian Electric is hopeful that with the facility’s return to service, it will accelerate reductions of fossil fuel generation. Before May 2018, PGV had helped Hawaii Island reach the state’s highest renewable energy percentage, at nearly 60 percent. When it shut down, the island’s renewable percentage plummeted to 35 percent. Since PGV went offline, reliability and resilience have also been improved by introducing new steel and wood transmission lines connecting PVG to the grid.

The repair costs were not passed onto utility consumers, as they were handled by Ormat Technologies, Inc. — the facility’s owner — and its insurers. Likewise, though, consumers do not stand to see much change on their electric bills from the facility’s reopening, as oil prices have greatly fallen since its shutdown.