Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Disappeared energy story 3: Hawaii’s alternative energy leadership is based on hot air technology

by Larry Geller

I propose we install a giant turbine above the State Capitol atrium to tap into some of the abundant heat and hot air resources currently being wasted there. As an antidote, I have some cool videos for you, including one that’s totally awesome.

Yes, there is alternative energy, but you’ll need a plane ticket to see it. Or check out YouTube. Alternative energy is in the news, and it makes great videos. A few are below.

Rep. Cynthia Thielen has been a tireless champion of alternative energy for Hawaii at the Legislature, and recently completed an important trip to Washington, DC. Her op-ed in the Star-Bulletin on December 21, 2008, Hawaii poised to lead ocean energy wave, is worth reading and ends thusly:

The message I gave to Obama's transition team is that Hawaii is one of the best places in the world for wave energy conversion, and we are ready. We have an abundance of year-round wave energy, a large, concentrated market on Oahu and our residents pay the highest electricity rates in the nation because our state exports up to $7 billion each year to import oil. With UH Chancellor Hinshaw, HECO executive Alm and economic director Liu joining the consortium's call for action, our state will lead.

Rep. Thielen is correct, of course, but her op-ed would have been timely even a decade ago. The fact is, we have not lead on alternative energy since Puna Geothermal started production on the Big Island. We do have a niche in sea water air conditioning. Though proposed at least as early as 1995, the project is finally in progress at present (see web page).  This isn’t an energy-generating project, though, it provides air conditioning, which conserves energy for the buildings that participate.

While we talk about leading, others sprint by us. We’re hardly even in the race so far. Our abandoned pineapple fields are not paved over with solar panels, and our sea channels are not home to any wave power generators. There’s a windmill blade impaled in the parking lot at the Hawaiian Electric office on Ward Avenue, which is a strange place to put it IMHO. Like a set of deer antlers mounted on a wall, it seems more like a hunting trophy than any commitment to alternative energy. Yup, they killed that one…

In fact, it seems that outsiders have sneakily beaten us to the punch in Hawaii. Disappeared News broke the story that a Washington state company has filed papers to install wave and probably Chinese-made wind generators smack in middle of Penguin Bank, an area with the highest whale density around the Hawaiian Islands.

Other places are building, we are only talking. If only we could harness the hot air we generate!

The largest solar panel installation in the world could be up and running in Arizona in 2011. That’s leadership.

Florida is moving forward with what should be, for awhile anyway, the largest solar power plant in the USA, with two other facilities scheduled to go on-line next year (2009). That’s leadership.

California is planning two large solar installations according to this August 15, 2008 NY Times article:

The plants will cover 12.5 square miles of central California with solar panels, and in the middle of a sunny day will generate about 800 megawatts of power, roughly equal to the size of a large coal-burning power plant or a small nuclear plant. A megawatt is enough power to run a large Wal-Mart store.

Portugal is a world leader in solar, wind and wave power. See this article or this one (December 2, 2008, Europe's biggest wind farm switches on).

Yes, there are leaders, and Hawaii is basically nowhere. Heck, let’s not lead, let’s just replace all this oil we are buying. A real initiative would be to get some wind/solar/wave power humming for us just by buying the equipment someplace. Plug it in and let’s get busy already.

Dubai could also claim to be an alternative energy leader. Are you sitting down? Got seat belts? Ok, check this out.

One building, scheduled for completion in 2011, will incorporate wind turbines between the floors that generate enough power for its own needs and sufficient for five other skyscrapers:

With 4,000 wind hours annually in Dubai, the turbines incorporated into the building “can generate 1,200,000 kilowatt-hour of energy”, worth around $7m, according to DA [Dynamic Architecture, the designer].

Each turbine would produce 0.3MW electrical output, enough for 50 families, so that just four turbines would power all 200 flats, leaving surplus output from the other 44. Even on a conservative basis, assuming average wind speeds in Dubai of only 16km/h and eight turbines needed to serve the energy needs of the tower, there would be surplus power for export from 40 turbines. This would still be enough to power five other skyscrapers of the same size. [Spinning towers of Dubai]


YouTube: Dynamic Skyscraper

(This tower is a bit of a distraction, I know—it’s cool, it’s amazing, it’s almost unbelievable. To read more about it and for more pics, see this article, or this one.)

As long as we’re watching videos, we might as well spy on what others are doing, since not much is happening here, and there’s little information in our newspapers. It’s out there, you’ll find plenty for the googling.

Here’s one wave power system that’s interesting to watch:

YouTube: Anaconda system

Here’s another system:

YouTube: Giant Sea Snake Renewable Electricity Generation

There are also on-shore wave power installations, such as one in Scotland, that have been running reliably for years.

Finally, we talk mostly about generation and not much about distribution. The governor’s power initiative cements HECO into the power grid. Most likely we will have to find a way to pry them away from it, but that’s a topic for another article.




Yeah, it's amusing that Hawaii government officials would say that we could lead the world in renewable energy when other places are already doing it and Hawaii ain't doin' squat. Lingle and the Legislature are a bunch of morons.

A year ago Lingle gave her State of the State address proposing that the State buy and run a resort, and for a few months after that there was no indication that State officials understood where the economy was at that point even though for anybody here out in the economy it was obvious that this depression began in November '07, later December '07 to be validated by national economists as the beginning of the 'recession.'

Lingle and the Legislature, with a few exceptions, don't have a clue.

Not a clue? True. And what sayeth Hawaii's elitist environmentalist establishment; the folks who take all of the corporate money to print all of those pretty color brochures and to present forum after forum ad nauseam about how great it will all be at some point? Were doomed because they've all sold out to the establishment. All of the local do-gooder types seem to have missed this simple fact. "Follow the money" might be invoked here.

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