Kauai has a long history using biomass to produce electricity. Until the early 2000s, waste from harvested sugar cane was burned to create the steam used to power generators, but with the closure of the plantations came the end of creating energy from biomass.
In January 2011, KIUC announced an agreement to purchase power from Green Energy Team, a partnership that proposed building a biomass-to-energy facility near Koloa. Construction on the plant began in January 2013. When finished in 2014, it will supply 11 percent of the island’s annual energy needs. The plant will have a capacity of 6.7 megawatts and be fueled by biomass from several sources, including short-rotation trees grown on about 2,000 acres and cleared invasive tree species.
The majority partner on the project is Standardkessel, a German company that is the world leader in biomass generation technology. Once operational, the plant will create 39 permanent jobs and dozens of jobs for local contractors and suppliers.
Biomass is an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels, which not only decouples KIUC’s energy costs from the global oil markets, but supports local agricultural jobs.