"That's really in response to the demand that's coming from the community on Hawaii Island," said Aila. "They're paying some of the highest prices for electricity in the state."
However, opposition to the geothermal industry on the Big Island continues to grow louder, where critics blame a variety of health problems on the Ormat plant in Puna.
Gary Hooser, an ex-officio member of the Environmental Council and director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control, believes geothermal technology doesn't harm human health, even though he voted against the exemption for exploratory wells.
"I think if done properly, like most things, geothermal can be perfectly safe," said Hooser. "We need to explore all these alternatives to renewable energy."
Longtime native Hawaiian activist Mililani Trask is currently representing Innovations Development Group, Inc., a company which hopes to dig geothermal exploration wells on the Big Island.
Although members of The Pele Defense Fund have begun speaking out against the interference geothermal plants could pose to native Hawaiian Pele practitioners, Trask says those concerns are overblown. She points to a 1995 decision by the Hawaii Supreme Court that affirmed access rights of native Hawaiians.
"Since that time and until the very present moment, there hasn't been a single case of a single Hawaiian prevented from worshiping tutu Pele because of a geothermal plant in Puna," said Trask. "It just hasn't happened. It's a non-issue."