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Hawaii Electric Light Co. (HELCO) has announced it will soon take steps to expand geothermal energy on Hawaii Island by issuing a request to the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to open a docket for a geothermal request for proposals.

At the same time, HELCO plans to undertake technical studies on the integration of additional geothermal resources on the island's grid. More transmission lines may be needed if all of the geothermal power comes from the east side of the island. In addition, there is the potential for placing one or more fossil-fuel units on standby when the geothermal power is operational, according to the utility.

HELCO will seek geothermal technologies that provide firm, fully dispatchable capability, which will help maintain reliability and help to manage intermittent resources such as wind and solar photovoltaic power. HELCO hopes to add up to 50 MW more of geothermal power if the cost is lower for customers.

In June 2011, HELCO issued a request for information to determine the best way to pursue geothermal development on Hawaii Island. HELCO sought input from stakeholders - including potential geothermal developers, interested landowners and others - on the next steps that take into account Hawaii's renewable energy goals and clean energy policy in keeping with the state's community, cultural, historical and environmental context. The company received 20 responses to the request for information.

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