Maui County's call for a developer to build and operate a waste-to-energy plant has attracted some of the nation's top names in waste-conversion technologies.
Last month, the county began seeking bids to convert the island's solid waste into energy in an effort to cut down on the amount of trash that ends up in the Central Maui Landfill in Puunene.
The Department of Environmental Management had 111 "prospective bidders" as of last week, including Mainland-based industry leaders Jacoby Energy, Zero Waste Energy, Novi Energy and Novo Energy.
Also expressing interest are 20 companies or individuals listing a Maui mailing address. Some of the Maui companies include Aloha Recycling, Akahele Energy Group, Haleakala Energy Associates, Maui Disposal, Maui EKO Systems, Pacific Rim Land and III Bears Inc.
Another two dozen companies on Oahu, the Big Island and Kauai also are listed as prospective bidders, including Covanta Energy, which operates the City & County of Honolulu's H-Power incineration plant.
Maui County officials have said the Department of Environmental Management would lease approximately 10 acres next to the landfill to the winning bidder, which would be required to finance, design, build and operate the project.
The county would make available all of its waste streams - including solid waste, green waste, sewage sludge and grease - and guarantee sending the waste to the facility for 20 years. Maui generates between 450 tons and 500 tons of waste a day.
A key requirement of the request for proposals is that bidders propose established technologies that have been proved on a commercial scale at two facilities each with three years of commercial operating history.
That requirement could disqualify many of the companies expressing interest, considering how relatively new waste-to-energy technologies are on a commercial scale.
"The County of Maui will not consider any proposals which fail to demonstrate two reference commercial facilities with three years of commercial operating history each," the Department of Environmental Management said in a list of published responses to questions from interested parties.
"The County of Maui will not look favorably to projects which has a likelihood of failure for a number of reasons, including undeveloped technology, lack of markets for resulting products, or solutions that do not fit within the constraints on Maui."
Prospective bidder Zero Waste Energy of Lafayette, Calif., says on its website that six planned projects in California will use the company's so-called anaerobic digestion technology.
In an announcement last month, the company said it was completing construction of its first U.S. plant in Marina, Calif., that would convert 5,000 tons a year of organic waste into biogas to provide power and heat. Another plant is in the works for South San Francisco, which will convert 10,000 tons annually into compressed natural gas biofuel.
Another prospective bidder, Greenwich, Conn.-based Green Waste Energy, uses a proprietary waste gasification process to heat garbage under pressure and without oxygen to break down the trash. One of the byproducts includes a clean gas that can be used to run engines.
Green Waste Energy has proposed building a thermal conversion waste plant at the Port of Albany.
Michigan-based Novi Energy, which expressed interest in Maui's project, earlier this year opened a "community digester" in its home state to process approximately 100,000 tons per year of organic waste and agricultural waste into biogas, which is used to generate renewable electricity.
The company is also building an approximately 50-megawatt biomass-fueled, electric generation project in Virginia that will use local forest waste wood.
Another prospective bidder, Jacoby Energy Development, had built and operated a facility that turned old garbage at a shuttered landfill near Atlanta into clean-burning natural gas by converting landfill exhaust gas into renewable natural gas.
The company, a subsidiary of Jacoby Development Inc. of Atlanta, sold that processing facility earlier this year.
Jacoby had at one time sought to build a waste-to-energy plant in Hawaii that would turn garbage into electricity using plasma arc technology, but those plans never materialized.
Turning a profit will be another challenge for any bidder on the Maui project.
While one draw would be the potential to sell any renewable power generated to Maui Electric Co., that potential is uncertain at this point.
Maui Electric has been wanting to issue its own request for proposals for a waste-to-energy plant near the landfill. Whatever project ends up wining the county's bid could potentially apply for MECO's bid, but MECO has yet to issue its solicitation.
Copies of the request for proposals can be obtained through the Department of Finance's Purchasing Division by calling 249-2403, or by visiting the office at 2145 Wells St., Suite 104, in Wailuku.
The deadline for bids has been extended to 4 p.m. Jan. 31.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.