Thursday, December 10, 2009
Interisland cable report proposes illegal segmented EIS
by Henry Curtis
The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) and the University of Hawaii’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) have just released their Final Report on the Interisland Cable Ocean Floor Survey.
The report analyzed different routes for laying a high voltage electric transmission cable between Mau`i, Lana`i, Moloka`i and O`ahu.
Using hard data and video, SOEST examined a wide range of factors including coral reefs, slopes, critical habitats, bathymetry, existing pipes and telecommunication lines, planned pipes for the Honolulu Sea Water Air Conditioning system, artificial reefs, offshore munitions and garbage dumps, fishing grounds, and the Whale Sanctuary.
The Report did not look at (a) whether centralized inter-island wind power is better than distributed rooftop solar from a standpoint of cost, reliability, aesthetics and consumer acceptance; (b) the type of cable needed; (c) the size of the cable needed; and (d) whether carrying 400 MW of wind power needs multiple routes for reliability.
The Project consists of four segments: Lana`i and Moloka`i windfarms; Transmission Lines from the windfarms to coastal sites; an inter-island cable; and Transmission Lines from the O`ahu coast to the Ko`olau Transmission Substation by the Pali Golf Course and Iwilei Transmission Substation mauka of Costco.
The windfarms might cost $800M ($2000/MW). The interisland cables are estimated to cost $800M to $1B. HECO has publicly stated that the land-based transmission lines will cost anywhere from several hundred million dollars to higher. Thus the total project will cost $2.5 to $3B plus cost overruns.
The Report proposes to illegally segment the EIS process by having a programmatic EIS that would analyze only the inter-island cable.
The Report states: "As part of this work effort, the State will draft a programmatic EIS for the Interisland Wind Initiative, with input from the wind developers on Lāna‘i and Moloka‘i and from HECO and MECO on O‘ahu and Maui. The wind developers are responsible for drafting their own respective Environmental Assessments and/or EISs for their individual wind farms. HECO and MECO are responsible for drafting their own respective EAs and/or EISs for the utility infrastructure upgrades on O‘ahu and Maui. The State is responsible for drafting the required environmental review documentation for the Interisland Cable." (page 3)
How’s that? Multiple Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Statements for the same project. That is the classic definition of segmentation.
The windfarms could stand alone as a power source on their islands, they should do their own EA/EIS's. The HECO and MECO utility upgrades could stand alone, they should do their own EA/EIS's. The interisland cable is another EA/EIS. That's not segmentation, that's just the way it is.
But, I agree, PV on roof-tops may be more cost-effective. That's where DOE PACE municipal bonding comes in...a potentially better, more cost-effective solution.