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Forum on geothermal energy to include Hawaiian leaders

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A Honolulu-based company that has developed geothermal energy proj­ects on Maori trust lands in New Zealand will lead a community forum on the Big Island tomorrow to discuss the pursuit of geothermal energy there.

Innovations Development Group, which specializes in socially responsible development, said the forum will include presentations by six native Hawaiian leaders who will offer their views on how development of geothermal energy can be done in a way that protects cultural and resources.

Organizers say they hope to encourage development of geothermal proj­ects to compete with Ormat Technologies, which operates the island’s only geothermal plant.

Patricia Brandt, IDG’s chief executive officer, said it is important that the native Hawaiian and local community has a say in future geothermal proj­ects.

"The people of the land need to be real partners in any geothermal development, and we have the expertise to make that happen," Brandt said.

Brandt will moderate the discussion scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow at Pahoa Community Center.

Geothermal energy has had a controversial past on Hawaii.

Community members in the early 1990s successfully fought development of a geothermal proj­ect planned for the Wao Kele o Puna rainforest.

About 400 community members were arrested and led away in handcuffs during a protest at the site.

The geothermal plan was eventually scrapped, and the state later bought the land from Campbell Estate and placed it in preservation.

The only geothermal plant on the island, operated by Ormat subsidiary Puna Geothermal Venture Inc., has 30 megawatts of generating capacity with another eight megawatts scheduled to come online this year.

The Big Island has the potential to produce 1,400 megawatts of geothermal, seven times what is needed to power its energy needs, according to a report by the Mas­sa­chu­setts Institute of Technology.

Panelists in tomorrow’s forum include Hawaiian advocate Mili­lani Trask; cultural adviser Cy Bridges; Kuu­lei­ohu­oka­­lani Kea­loha Cooper of the Kea­loha Estate; Bob Lindsey, Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee; and Kale Gumpac, CEO of Lau­lima Title Search and Claims.

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