Try Wait – Comparing costs for Geothermal vs. Aina Koa Pono Biofuels

Richard Ha writes: 

It’s all about the cost.

What if we substituted geothermal electricity for Aina Koa
Pono's biofuels proposal, in order to replace the 80MW that the Keahole liquid
fuel-fired plant produces?

Aina Koa Pono’s proposed plan would cost rate payers the
equivalent of $200/barrel of oil.

The “barrel of oil equivalent” for geothermal-produced
electricity is $57/barrel
, and this price will be stable for 500,000 to a
million years. (Geothermal is competitive with – though cheaper than – natural
gas, which is $5.16 per million BTUs and breaks even with oil at $57/barrel;
and nuclear power, which breaks even at $6.26 and $69).

At today’s oil prices, there is an 11 cent difference
between oil- and geothermal-produced electricity. Geothermal is cheaper by far.

The Keahole plant’s capacity is 80MW, which is 80,000
kilowatts per hour. Using geothermal would save $8,800/hour, $211,200/day, and $6,336,000/month.
In a year, the savings would be $76 million.

Why can't we split the difference? Part of the savings goes
to lowering rate payers bills, and the other half to retire debt?

The electric utility should not be punished for trying to
achieve its renewable energy goals. But we have to realize there may be alternatives
that better prepare us for the future. Let's not lock ourselves out of these
opportunities by signing a 20-year contract just because of an arbitrary time

In the end, with geothermal we would pay the oil equivalent
of $57/barrel on our electric bills. If we go Aina Koa Pono’s route, we pay the
equivalent of $200/barrel.

Am I missing something?

One thought on “Try Wait – Comparing costs for Geothermal vs. Aina Koa Pono Biofuels”

  1. What would a fast comparrison of Geothermal to Aina Koa Pono Biofuels by answering the Robert Rapier energy project feasability questions below show?

    I hope the Hawaii PUC has the answers when considering HELCO’s proposed biofuel surcharge and electricity rate increases later this month.

    From my limited knowledge based on what I read in the press and some research on the technologies, the analysis for the biofuels project shows too many gaps. The analysis for geothermal alternative shows solid answers and clear proven feasibility.


    1.At what scale has the process been actually demonstrated, and is the process currently running?
    2.What is the source of raw materials for the process?
    3.What is being done with the product?
    4.What are the primary energy inputs into the process, and what is the energy balance?
    5.Will there be intermediate scale-up steps before a commercial facility is built?
    6.What are the key assumptions for a commercial facility (e.g., size, cost of production, location)?
    7.What is the presumed source and cost of biomass for a commercial facility?
    8.Has the process been proven on that specific biomass?
    9.What are the patent or patent application numbers relevant to the process?
    10.What prior work is most similar to yours, and who are your perceived competitors?

    Going forward with the biofuels project as described could be a waste of ratepayers and investor’s money. The biofuels facility, if built as proposed could likely end up a larger scale version of the failed pilot solar desalinization plant that stood abandoned and an eyesore for years at Milolii.

    It seems public opinion, and the opinion of and government leaders on the biofuels project is being influenced by the promiss of jobs and rekindling of plantation agriculture in hawaii in conjunction with electricity production. The reality is biofuel for power production at this time is not a wise choice.

    What would be the costs, time frame and jobs (lifecycle analysis , including greenhouse gas emmissions) be for replacing the 80 megawatts of power generated in Kona with geothermal?

    Do the same analysis for the Aina Koa Pono project. What do you get?

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