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Company releases geothermal steam, triggering power outage

    Steam from the Puna Geothermal Venture's power plant could be seen rising into the atmosphere Wednesday afternoon. (Courtesy Robet Petricci)

Puna Geothermal Venture’s geothermal power plant released about 125,000 pounds of steam, resulting in a brief power outage in the Puna area Wednesday afternoon, a spokesman said.

Civil Defense notified area residents who may have seen the large plume of steam or smelled the hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs, but there was no sounding of a warning siren, said Mike Kaleikini, senior director for Hawaiian Affairs of Ormat Technologies, parent company of Puna Geothermal Venture.

Hawaii County Fire Department also responded, but officials were instructed to allow Civil Defense to comment.

Civil Defense could not be reached.

Kaleikini said the plant was disconnected from Hawaiian Electric Light Co.’s grid at about 4 p.m. for an unknown reason, resulting in a brief loss of power in the area. He said the company provides power to about 20,000 homes.

Kaleikini said low levels of hydrogen sulfide were released and did not exceed standards under the Department of Health permit.

He stressed the plant shut down was done in a safe and timely manner, taking 15 minutes. No workers or area residents were injured.

“It occurred rather quickly, but it was something we are trained for and  are aware of what could happen,” he said. “It wasn’t like an unexpected catastrophe.”

He said PGV’s initial investigation did not find any reasons for the disconnection on its end.

PGV notified the Department of Health, Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Hawaii County Planning Department, as well as contact persons in Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Garden subdivisions.

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