The state’s quest for energy independence took a step forward with Hawaiian Electric Co. receiving bids from 10 companies seeking to supply the utility with biofuel produced locally to burn in its power plants.
There are a number of potential biofuel feedstocks that can be produced in Hawaii, including:
PUUNENE – Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. General Manager Chris Benjamin characterized last week’s long-awaited state decision on Na Wai Eha stream waters as a reprieve, rather than a victory, for the plantation struggling for survival.
On Thursday, the state Commission on Water Resource Management ordered 12.5 million gallons of water per day to no longer be diverted from West Maui Mountain streams, also called Na Wai Eha, or the "Four Great Streams."
That amount to be returned was only about a third of what had been proposed by Dr. Lawrence Miike, a commissioner and the contested hearings officer for the ongoing water dispute.
"I would say that the commission’s decision is nuanced," Benjamin said. "I would not use the word ‘victory.’ The reality is we still lost a significant amount of water for a plantation that lost $45 million over the last couple years because of low crop yields (due to drought conditions).
"It’s a setback in that respect, but relative to the initial recommendation, it’s a dramatic improvement," Benjamin said. "In the long term, at least this gives us hope when we’re just trying to stay in business."
June 3 (Bloomberg) — Inside an industrial warehouse in South San Francisco, California, Harrison Dillon, chief technology officer of startup Solazyme Inc., examines a beaker filled with a brown paste made of sugar cane waste. While the smell brings to mind molasses, this goo, called bagasse, won’t find its way into people-pleasing confections.
Instead, scientists will empty it into 5-gallon metal flasks of algae and water. The algae will gorge on the treat — filling themselves with fatty oils as they double in size every six hours, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its July issue.
Down the hall, past a rainbow of algae strains arrayed in Petri dishes, Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Wolfson shows off a gallon-size bottle of slightly viscous liquid. After drying the algae, wringing out the oil and shipping it to a refinery, this is the prize: diesel fuel that Wolfson says is chemically indistinguishable from its petroleum-based equivalent and which has already powered a Jeep Liberty and a Mercedes Benz sedan.
“We’ve produced tens of thousands of gallons, and by the end of 2010, I hope I can say we’ve produced hundreds of thousands,” Wolfson, 39, says. “In the next two years, we should get the cost down to the $60 to $80-a-barrel range.”
At that price, Solazyme’s algae fuel would compete with $80-a-barrel oil.
WAILUKU – Nearly six months after recommending that Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. restore water to only one of 19 streams in East Maui, staffers for the state Commission on Water Resource Management have changed their minds – at the direction of balance-seeking commissioners in the heated controversy.
If commissioners follow the advice signed off by Deputy Director Ken Kawahara, HC&S will have to return water to a total of 14 of 27 streams in the East Maui watershed. Kawahara’s 64-page staff report advocates that six streams get some of their water back, totaling 10.46 million gallons a day.
The report was issued in time for a meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Paia Community Center, where a number of decisions could be made. It’s a continuation of a meeting held in December when commissioners asked the staff and different sides to come back with more information and new compromises.
Since the public will be given an opportunity to testify and all the sides are asked to give presentations about their own recommendations, two additional meetings are scheduled for June 16 and June 21. The last meetings drew more than 100 speakers a day.
PUUNENE — Within the next five years to 10 years, Hawaii’s last sugar producer, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. could be out of the topsy-turvy granulated sugar business and making much-desired biofuels, company, federal and state officials announced Wednesday afternoon.
The U.S. Department of Energy, though the University of Hawaii, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Navy will receive $6 million annually to help HC&S determine whether it is feasible to convert the more than 130-year-old company into an "energy farm," or a high-tech producer of renewable fuels, said HC&S General Manager Chris Benjamin at a news conference.
It would be a dramatic transformation, participants said. The move could preserve hundreds of agricultural jobs on Maui for decades to come and potentially lead to tens of millions of dollars in capital improvement investments to the aging sugar mill.
"This (funding) could help define a new future for HC&S as an alternative energy producer," Benjamin said.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — University of Illinois researchers say that a common crop parasite called a nematode has been found in large numbers on two plants being grown to make biofuels.
They aren’t sure yet if that’s a serious problem. But they’re studying the microscopic round worms and the miscanthus and switch grass plants they were discovered on to find out.
Researchers at the university’s Energy Biosciences Institute say some of the tiny parasites they’ve found reduce biomass in plants. The amount of biomass produced by the plants being studied is one key factor in how much fuel they can produce.
Nematodes are a common crop pest. Biofuel crops where they have been found were in Illinois, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, South Dakota and Tennessee.