Ethanol plant stirs coal debate
On November 7th, TGI reported that issue of "burning coal" was a devisive point in the utilization of an upcoming ethanol plant about to break ground in Kaumakani on the campus of Gay & Robinson. Gay & Robinson is one of the two remaining producers of sugar in a state where sugar cane used to be one of the islands' main industries. Then on Nov. 10th, Gay & Robinson President Alan Kennett said yesterday that coal will not power a proposed ethanol plant under development by partners Gay & Robinson and Pacific West Energy, which together have invested $80 million in the multi-pronged project.
Designed to annually produce 12-million gallons of liquid fuel from sugar juice and molasses, he said, the Kaumakani-based refinery will be the first major component as the historic Kaua‘i sugar company transitions to a renewable energy plantation. The feedstock supply will come from 7,500 acres of sugar fields the Robinson family cultivates on the Westside.
Cutting Sugar Cane on the Gay & Robinson campus
In response to community concerns over the harmful environmental impact of burning coal, Pacific West Energy President William Maloney told a leading local group advocating energy independence that cleaner power sources will be used instead.
“I am pleased to inform you and Apollo Kaua‘i (a local environmental citizen's group) that our collective boards of directors have reviewed the coal issue and we have made the decision that coal will not be part of our business model, as either a primary or supplemental fuel for the ethanol plant or power generation,” Maloney stated in a letter to Apollo Kaua‘i Chair Ben Sullivan. “We have heard your organization, and others’ voices as well, including our own senior management and directors, and we have concluded that coal has no place in our green energy business.” Apollo Kauai is one of several sustainability groups on Kauai, and a big proponent of greening the island and Kauai.
Construction for the plant is expected to begin by late-December or early-January and be operational by the second quarter of 2009, Kennett said.