Monday, July 26, 2010


Inter-Island Windfarms

By Henry Curtis

What is the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI)?

The HCEI was a plan developed by the Bush and Lingle administrations to create an energy future whereby the Big Players (Castle & Cooke, HECO, FirstWind) could be guaranteed a rosy economic future. Thus the “Energy Agreement” mentioned and referred to HECO 400 times but overlooked distributed generation relying on rooftop solar and wind systems. It appears that the purpose of HCEI is to keep HECO whole in this dynamic energy environment.

What is the Goal of HCEI?

In theory, HCEI proposes that Hawaii achieve 70% clean energy by 2030. The central core of HCEI is a Smart Grid and an Inter-Island Cable.

HCEI spin does not match reality.

HCEI excludes aviation energy. The goal is that 70% of non-aviation energy should be clean energy by 2030. This works out to 49% of all energy used in the State. Of this, only 28% would be renewable energy.

Under the State’s current renewable energy definition, which the State is not proposing to change, the following are all forms of renewable energy: (1) heat recovered from coal, oil and gas burning; (2) the burning of plastic and other fossil fuel products in garbage-to-energy facilities; and (3) coal-based ethanol.
The dream should not be the HCEI mantra (70% clean by 2030) but a common sense paradigm shift (100% low-climate-impact, indigenous, culturally and environmentally friendly fuel by 2020).

Can Oahu be 100% energy self reliant by 2020?

Yes, according to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a utility trade to which HECO belongs. Oahu can supply all of its own power needs.

But those local entities that profit from the business-as-usual paradigm, and those entities that could profit from a top-down big boys know the answers switcheroo, are not even willing to contemplate that such an alternative is feasible. Eyes wide shut.

What is the Smart Grid?

The Smart Grid is used to describe what the electric grid of tomorrow will look like. It includes making no change or making large changes. It includes centralized and decentralized approaches.

HECO’s Smart Grid proposal is currently a year behind schedule, and HECO has asked state regulators for another 18 month delay.

What is the Inter-Island Cable project?

It is a government-utility plan to build 1-3 undersea high-voltage electric transmission lines from the North or South shore or both shores of O`ahu to Moloka`i and/or Lana`i and/or Maui so that Neighbor Island wind power, and perhaps future geothermal power, can give O`ahu the energy needed to continue unbridled growth. Currently there are no electric lines that go between the islands.

Who benefits from the Inter-Island Cable project?

(1) HECO

The taxpayers would finance (buy) the undersea cable and hand it over to HECO to manage it.

(2) Castle & Cooke

In 2009 David Murdoch (Castle & Cooke) failed in his attempt to pass a state law to exempt public participation in the cable project (it passed the State House and was killed in the State Senate). Castle & Cooke would have to greatly expand the Lana`i harbor and build paved highways through large sections of Lana`i. Large tracts of land would suddenly have major road and harbor connections. These lands could be developed for gated communities and vacation resorts for the rich. Visitors could drive on the highway to the Garden of the Gods and other important historical sites. A large harbor could allow for the importation of large amounts of water, something that rich communities have done in other areas.

What are the problems with the Undersea Cable?

Who wants to go first? The billion dollar taxpayer financed cable? The 100-200 towers, each over 400 feet tall on Moloka`i? The 100-200 towers, each over 400 feet tall on Lana`i? What if one is built and the other two are not. Who is left holding the financial tab?

David Murdoch will be in his 90s in 2015 when the system is expected to come on-line. His heirs are not publicly known. The Humpback Whale Sanctuary surrounds Lana`i.

No site has been confirmed on Moloka`i. The cable from Moloka`i to Lana`i will go through the sensitive offshore Penguin Banks area.

Several new transmission lines, “costing $300M or more” will have to be built on O`ahu.

What could go wrong?

What if the price of solar continues to fall and what if the unsubsidized cost of solar in 2015 is cheaper that the cost of electricity in this State. What if people begin leaving the electric utility and those who stay find their bills skyrocketing upwards?

What if in 5 years rooftop micro-wind and wind-farms on O`ahu could match the energy price on interisland wind?

What if the New Governor is open to community-based solutions?

Isn’t this the second proposed Inter-Island Cable?

Yes. The State spent $17M over a 15 year period focusing on developing 500MW of geothermal on Hawai`i Island to power O`ahu. In June 1991 Federal Judge David Ezra ruled that all federal agencies were prohibited from assisting in the project until a federal EIS has been completed (it never was).


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