Wednesday, October 20, 2010


More Industrialization for Lana`i?

By Henry Curtis

There is a proposal to build by Gridflex Energy, LLC to build a 300MW hydropower energy storage system on Lana`i.

In seawater Pumped Storage Hydropower, water is pumped uphill during periods of excess wind, and released to created hydropower when wind has decreased in speed. Thus the water acts as a battery, smoothing out the variable wind-generated electricity.

The past efforts at building Pumped Storage Hydropower in Hawai`i have relied on fresh water which requires 2 reservoirs. Saltwater, which is more corrosive, uses the ocean as the lower reservoir.

The proposal is to pump ocean saltwater uphill to a reservoir located a little over 2 miles inland and 1/3 of a mile higher in elevation.

There would be three turbines (150 MW, 100 MW and 50 MW) with the option of a fourth 100 MW turbine.

A 6-mile, 230 kV volt line (the largest existing line in Hawai`i is a 138 kV; the largest Neighbor Island transmission line is about 69 kV) would be built on Lana`i.

A representative of Gridflex Energy told me that he has discussed this proposal with HECO (electricity buyer), Castle & Cooke (landowner), and DBEDT (inter-island cable developers).

I met with a Pumped Storage Hydropower developer 15 years ago. He wanted to build a Pumped Storage Hydropower on Oahu. After HECO repeated changed the location, he gave up and went home.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has opened a 60-day window to intervene and/or file comments in the regulatory proceedings.

The last FERC regulatory docket for Hawai`i dealt with the proposal to build wave-wind platforms in Penguin Banks off Moloka`i. The developer in that case (Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company) filed multiple applications for ocean leases around the country. In all other States, both non-profit organizations and governmental agencies intervened. In Hawai`i, only Life of the Land intervened.

In that proceeding, the U.S. Minerals Management Service wrested control of the regulatory proceeding from FERC, and canned the Penguin Bank proposal because it was in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Interestingly, Lana`i is the only main Hawaiian island surrounded by the Whale sanctuary.

Henry Curtis

# # #


The Penguin Bank proposal was first revealed here in Disappeared News in December, 2008. The Advertiser got to it in March, 2009.

Fortunately for us (and the whales) you knew what to do about it and you did take action.

Come on, folks, support Life of the Land.

Some notes about the proposed project:

1. The preliminary permit applied for is required in order to study the possibility of the project and begin what may, or may not, end up as a license application to FERC. In and of itself, the preliminary permit does not allow any kind of construction to occur. Significant feasibility work, design engineering, environmental evaluations, and permitting have to occur before such a project could be built.

2. If Hawaii wishes to shift toward a mainly renewable energy base, one option is large wind installations. The people of Hawaii may or may not choose to use that option. But if they do, bulk energy storage can change a large injection of wind from a grid "problem" into a firm resource that can replace some of the aged, expensive oil-fired generating base, let alone defer the construction of any new fossil-fired power plants.

3. To date, studies of storage in Hawaii have not identified a viable pumped storage site capable of this level of support. The possibility of seawater pumped storage appears to have been simply overlooked. The concept for the Lanai Pumped Storage Project is to use the relatively high head between an upper site on Lanai and sea-level to allow for the use of the smallest amount of water for the greatest amount of energy storage - in this case, about 30 hours' worth. Batteries cannot approach this level, which our modeling finds is needed to turn a variable wind resource into a firm resource that can actually compete directly with fossil resources.

4. While there are additional costs with using corrosion-resistant equipment and special measures for lining the reservoir and tunnels, there are also significant cost savings from not having to construct a lower reservoir.

5. If the Lanai wind project moves forward, then the addition of a 57 acre reservoir, an underground tunnel, underground powerhouse, outlet at the island's edge, and six mile 230 kV line would not represent a great incremental surface impact compared to the wind project itself.

6. As mentioned earlier, significant environmental impact studies need to be done before such a project can be approved. This would include consideration of the full natural and cultural context around the project. The whale sanctuary was mentioned in the original post; it should be noted that the western side of Lanai, where the proposed project would be located, appears to be far less trafficked by whales than deep areas between the islands. The inlet/outlet for the project would also be very close to shore.

One more note on the Lanai Pumped Storage concept: it is entirely the initiative of Gridflex Energy, and has been neither endorsed, sponsored by, nor embraced by the parties currently working on the wind projects or the cable. Gridflex believes that bulk storage plus wind makes sense in Hawaii, if large wind is going to be developed. But the storage project will be on its own track unless and until other parties in the islands decide to consider incorporating the project into the larger plan.

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