Sunday, March 08, 2009


Advertiser discovers Penguin Bank energy project

by Larry Geller

It’s a good story, the kind an investigative reporter can do in an actual newspaper. Trouble is, it’s three months late. The comment period on the proposal is closed.

You read about this project first on this blog in December. So did a few people at the Advertiser, although the stats don’t say who they were. Now the news springs boldly onto the front page. Good thing it got there at all, actually, so that we won’t be surprised when/if the barges arrive at our whale sanctuary laden with Chinese-made parts for a project that most people here had no idea even existed.

The Life of the Land motion to intervene appeared here in a December 16 article. There were also several other blog posts, enough to alert anyone in the press or government to this project.

And yes, it’s right in middle of the whale sanctuary. From a December 7 article, this composite map shows that the project site is locate within the area of highest whale density around the Hawaiian Islands (red color).  The project site map is from  the Grays Harbor public filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The Whale Density map is thanks to Brad Parsons.

Hawaii is still so far behind the alternative energy curve that it took a Washington state company to develop a plan for exploiting our wind and wave potential and apply for permits for it.

Whether the project will happen or not I cannot say, but why not take this as a wake-up call? Helllooo Hawaiiii, there is an alternative to HECO-generated fossil fuel power, if only you really wanted to do something about it.

From today’s article:

Besides the environmental obstacles, one of the biggest hurdles could be whether the company can reach agreement to sell the Penguin Bank power to Hawaiian Electric Co. [Grays Harbor president] Hamner said he has been told by a state renewable energy expert that HECO might not need all that electricity.

Wait a sec: maybe we, the people, would like to have our power generated by solar/wind/wave/geothermal/etc., instead of by imported oil. As that paragraph demonstrates, HECO is in charge of whether that happens. The implication is that HECO’s fossil fuel generators will continue on because they don’t need alternative energy.

I guess I’ll have to repeat myself from earlier articles: we’re not going to have alternative energy as long as HECO is in charge of the power grid. They (and their shareholders) make their money by burning expensive fuel, not by letting other people generate electricity for them.

This paragraph suggests that we re-think our strategy. What’s needed is a flexible power grid, able to distribute power that is generated by any number of independent sources. Over time, those fossil-fuel generators need to be replaced to the extent possible as alternative energy is phased in.

Go outside. Let every puff of wind remind you that we are wasting the energy wind could bring us, the relief from high electricity bills that is the promise of alternative energy. Go to the beach and let the waves lap at your toes. Think that over in Europe they are installing wave generators to free themselves from dependence on imported oil. Enjoy the sun, knowing that on the Mainland large solar farms are in place or being constructed, while we waste that powerful resource here.

Then think of what we need to do to begin to shut down those power plants and replace as many of them as possible with alternative sources.

In order to do that we’ll have to make some very fundamental changes in our relationship with HECO and our state government.

We’ll need independent leaders and representatives. We’ll need to unplug them from HECO and get busy tapping the alternative energy we are now wasting.


Like Irene Bowie said, "Good idea, bad location."

I liked the Advertiser article even if it was 3 months too late.

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