Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (HC&S) is to work with the University of Hawaii and various federal agencies on new Hawaii-based research initiatives on biofuels.
The company will receive annual federal funding of at least $4m that will be made available through two separate programmes, one funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the other by the US Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR), to conduct research at HC&S.
The $2m DOE annual funding will be directed to research on energy crop development and energy conversion technologies to be conducted by the University’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR).
The ONR funding, also $2m annually, will support complementary crop and technology assessments and an evaluation of long-term resource requirements for biomass production, said the company.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will direct the research initiatives, providing $2m per year through 2015 to help Hawaii accelerate sustainable biofuel feedstock production.
‘It is a significant step toward our goal of transforming HC&S into a large-scale energy farm, playing a key role in securing Hawaii’s energy future,’ said Chris Benjamin, general manager of HC&S. ‘These research programmes further complement our ongoing efforts to pursue energy projects with the private sector. Our ultimate goal is to produce advanced biofuels and renewable electricity from sugarcane and other biomass crops grown in Hawaii. In order to do that, we must carefully assess both parts of the bioenergy picture: the feedstock supply and the feedstock conversion to fuel.’
The growing interest in the potential for renewable energy generation in Hawaii was signalled when it was chosen to initiate a collaboration between the US Navy and the USDA that was formed in January with the aim of reducing the state’s dependency on foreign fossil fuels. .
Benjamin said, ‘We see our emerging role as a working laboratory, for Hawaii and the rest of the country, to test the potential of biofuel production.’
Cultivating more than 35,000 acres of sugarcane in Maui’s central valley and also producing food-grade specialty sugars at its Pu’unene Mill on Maui, HC&S produces about seven per cent of the electricity consumed by the rest of the island of Maui, besides supplying the electricity for all of its own operating needs.
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