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Mayor Wants to Convert Waste-to-Energy at Puunene Landfill

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Puunene with a vantage mauka. Photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

The County of Maui plans to covert trash into energy and lighten its carbon footprint by developing a Waste Conversion Plant in Pu’unene.

“At an average inflow of 450 tons per day at the Central Maui Landfill, there is a potential to develop an estimated 10-15 MW of renewable energy with no county capital outlay,” said Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa.

In making the announcement today, Mayor Arakawa issued a Request for Qualification, seeking an experienced company to develop and operate the facility.

The project is in addition to the Maui Landfill Gas Utilization Project [2], which was announced last year.

The county received a total of eight responses for the gas utilization project, and has already selected a potential vendor.  The county does not expect any real movement on the Landfill Gas Utilization Project until sometime next year, according to County Communications Director Rod Antone, who noted that authorities are still looking into project costs and other details.

The Waste-to-Energy project meantime, also in Pu’unene at the landfill, seeks to convert municipal solid waste into renewable fuel or energy.

Proponents say benefits of the process could include reduction of solid waste at the landfill, decrease in generation of methane gas, and reduction in the importation of fossil fuels for electricity.

Right now, methane gas is being flared.  “We’re not getting any benefit from it,” said Maui County Environmental Coordinator Rob Parsons. “Why not get a return on our investment,” he said.

In a phone interview this afternoon, Parsons said the county is currently examining a total of 52 material categories for waste sorting.  The SAIC analysis study he said, examines all of the waste streams that are generated on Maui including composted, land-filled and other sources that require management in specific ways.

“We don’t want to jump ahead too quickly too fast,” said Parsons, noting that the study will provide an accurate analysis of the waste stream so that the county can in turn determine the most beneficial way to deal with waste for the community and the environment.

“It is time for the County of Maui to take a hard look at making waste conversion a reality,” said Mayor Arakawa, who hopes to sell the renewable energy generated back to Maui Electric Company.  “We are focused on a fundamental shift to turn our trash into energy,” he said.

The City and County of Honolulu recently expanded their H-Power waste conversion project on O’ahu.

In the past, waste-to-energy facilities were limited to mass burn, incineration facilities; but now, waste conversion technologies have advanced significantly over the last decade with greater efficiencies and significantly lower emissions, according to county authorities.

The Department of Environmental Management will be administering the RFQ process as they seek out prospective developers.

After receiving responses, the department will seek approval from the Maui County Council.   Upon council approval, county officials say, Request for Proposals will then be advanced to the top RFQ respondents.