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Geothermal Power Plant in Hawaii Remains Threatened by Lava

Hawaii volcano
(Photo: Poles and wires continue to fall due to changes in the ground formation and seismic activity. Credit: Hawaii Electric Light on Twitter)

A geothermal energy conversion plant that produces about a quarter of the energy for the Big Island of Hawaii remains under threat from the Kilauea volcano eruption. Earlier this week, three active wells at the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) had to be shut down with cold water.

The eruption, which started about two weeks ago, prompted an emergency shutdown at PGV on May 3. This week, authorities began pumping cold water into the plant’s wells to kill them.

“The danger’s gone as long as we maintain the wells killed,” Tom Travis, director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency told Hawaii News Now. “However, there’s also danger of lava flows going across the top of the well.” That, he explained, would mean they no longer have a way to put cold water over the wells. The next step is to put plugs in the well above the geothermal resource, Travis said.

PGV officials issued a statement on Thursday reiterating that safety is their top priority. As reported by Hawaii News Now, the officials said:

“After the frequency of earthquakes increased dramatically, plant personnel closed and secured the facility per the emergency response plan. As part of that, we have done the following:

  • We shut down the power plant and the geothermal wells have all been shut down.
  • All pentane, a flammable fluid used in the electricity generation process, has been removed from the site and is safely stored off-site.

Plant personnel is on site around the clock, monitoring and ensuring safety. PGV personnel have been and continue to be in close communications with the Hawaii Emergency Management Administrator, Civil Defense and Mayor Harry Kim regarding the PGV facility. PGV is supplying portable air monitors to the first responders in the area and working with Pu’uhonua O Puna and American Red Cross aiding in disaster relief.”

Conditions were so dangerous this week that Hawaii Electric Light announced that a portion of Leilani Estates and all of Lanipuna Gardens had been designated as a no-entry zone for its crews.

On Thursday the United States Geological Survey posted an aviation red alert for the first time for the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, Deutsche Welle reported. Besides threatening safety and utilities on the island, the eruption is also disrupting the tourism industry.

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